How the Bennett-Lapid Government Hopes to Stay in Power – Even if Only for a Few More Months

Israel’s government looks to pressure two dissenting lawmakers into resigning from the Knesset, but its hands are tied when it comes to the defector from Bennett’s own party

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset during the West Bank vote, on Monday.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset during the West Bank vote, on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Bennett-Lapid government may be a lame duck, but coalition leaders hope that a series of “facelifts” would let it see the Knesset’s summer session through and stay in power for a few more months.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar plans to bring the West Bank legislation that lawmakers struck down on Monday for a government debate as early as Sunday, setting the ground for a new Knesset vote to extend the application of Israeli law to settlers. That vote, Sa’ar hopes, would come next week or the week after that, just before the regulations expire at the end of June.

“It’s worth making all efforts to pass that,” Sa’ar told Channel 12 News on Tuesday, signaling that he has no intention of bringing down the government, even as it failed to pass a piece of legislation supported by practically all Zionist parties, in both the ruling coalition and the opposition.

The government now faces difficult times ahead. It lost its Knesset majority, rendering it unable to promote legislation. Some coalition members are exploring independent initiatives, challenging the government and potentially leading to its ouster within days. “We’re going through a difficult process, [but] it’s possible and I believe that we can keep holding on for a long while,” said Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is meant to replace Naftali Bennett as prime minister next year if their government survives until then, at a conference organized Tuesday by DemocraTV, an independent online channel.

The main, dramatic move the government ministers are aiming for is the resignation of rebel MKs. If this succeeds, the governing coalition might stop the hemorrhage among the lawmakers. Lapid, and Meretz chairman Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, made clear on Tuesday that they want the two MKs of the left, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from Meretz and Mazen Ghanayim from the United Arab List, to resign and give up their seats to those next in line on their rosters in the hope of giving greater support to the government. Although a sitting MK cannot be dismissed, and leaving the Knesset would depend on the good will of these two, one member of the coalition said there was a chance that this could happen: Ghanayim wants to run for mayor of Sakhnin and could agree to resign in exchange for a nice package to assist his campaign.

Rinawie Zoabi had considered resigning from the Knesset a few weeks ago, after she declared she was leaving the coalition. “Anyone who can’t stand the difficulties is free to leave,” Horowitz said Tuesday, alluding to Rinawie Zoabi, whom he chose and to whom he guaranteed a spot on the Meretz roster. Lapid also expressed support for their resignation, when he said: “The fair thing they have to do is to say ‘okay, I’m giving the choice back to the public and the party.’ You can’t play both things at the same time and that’s true for all the parties, it’s true for all members of the coalition.”

Lapid, who turned Rinawie Zoabi into his “protégé” after the crisis and lack of faith expressed by Meretz just a few days ago, does not intend to meet with her at the moment. The coalition is not likely to act any time soon on the initiatives she wants to present.

Senior figures in the coalition called Tuesday for the Yamina party to take off the gloves in dealing with Idit Sliman and penalize her for her conduct. After she voted against the coalition on the request to appoint Deputy Minister Matan Kahana back to the post of religious services minister, and “disappeared” in the vote on the emergency regulations in the West Bank that the government wanted to pass, figures in the coalition believe that she should be considered as having resigned from Yamina’s Knesset faction and she should be dismissed as chairwoman of the Knesset Health Committee.

However, Yamina is in no hurry to make a move that would end her chance of running in the next election and also infuriate the party’s supporters. Some in the government believe that removing Sliman would undermine the coalition on the right. Still, it could succeed because of the disinclination of the various coalition partners to go to an election.

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