Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett condemned Sunday efforts to pressure lawmakers from his Yamina party to desert the new coalition, and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “to let go and allow Israel to move forward.”
“In recent weeks there is a violent machine being operated against lawmakers from Yamina and New Hope; it’s a funded, managed operation whose aim is to break them so that they’ll desert and vote against the new government, and this operation, unfortunately, all means are kosher,” Bennett said.
Later in his remarks, which were made at the Knesset, Bennett addressed Netanyahu and said, “People are allowed to vote to establish a government even if you don’t head it. A government which, by the way, is 10 degrees more right-wing than the present one.” He added, “I heard Netanyahu tell his supporters, using exactly this language, ‘Don’t be afraid to lay into them.’”
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Bennett addressed the threats directed at Yamina lawmaker Idit Silman, saying, “To ‘lay into’ them is to follow a lawmaker with a car with blaring loudspeakers, to scare her children en route to school, to threaten dismissal from work and to send curses and threats in all directions.”
Turning to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, Bennett called on him to schedule the vote for the new government for Wednesday. “We know Netanyahu is pressuring you to delay the vote, to postpone, to drag it out by another five days, to allow more time to hunt down deserters. That might be to Netanyahu’s benefit, but you know, Yariv, that’s not what’s good for the country.”
On Sunday the heads of all the change bloc parties, including United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas, met together for the first time. The meeting focused on the coordination of messages and the steps to take before the new government is sworn in: That will take place either Wednesday or next Monday.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the party leaders said they discussed the need to swear in the government on Wednesday in order to allow the country to move forward. “The party heads stressed the role of leaders in calming things down, and expressed concern about the atmosphere at demonstrations and on social media.”
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Bennett and Yair Lapid, the two senior partners in the new government, met in private before the larger meeting to discuss coalition agreements, the government’s guidelines and its members work plan. There are issues that still haven’t gotten the agreement of all the parties.
Also Sunday, the composition of the new government began to become clearer. Bennett will serve as prime minister until August 27, 2023, at which point Lapid will replace him and Bennett will become interior minister. During the first half of the term, Lapid will be foreign minister. Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz will stay on as defense minister. New Hope Chairman Gideon Sa’ar will be justice minister for the first two years, and then will get the foreign affairs portfolio.
Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz will be health minister, Labor Party Chairwoman Merav Michaeli will be transportation minister and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman will be finance minister.
Yamina will get three additional portfolios. Ayelet Shaked will first be interior minister, and then justice minister. Matan Kahane will be religious services minister. Yamina will also get the settlement portfolio. Yesh Atid will get the Social Affairs Ministry (Meir Cohen); the Social Equality Ministry (Merav Cohen); and the Economy and Industry Ministry (Orna Barbivai). Yoel Razvozov and Karin Elharar will head the Tourism and Energy Ministries, though who will take which hasn’t been decided.
The Labor Party will get the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and the Public Security Ministry, to be headed by Omer Bar Lev. Meretz will get the Environmental Protection Ministry (Tamar Zandberg) and the Regional Cooperation Ministry (Esawi Freige).
Yisrael Beiteinu will get the Agriculture Ministry and the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry.
New Hope will control the Education Ministry (Yifat Shasha-Biton), the Construction and Housing Ministry (Zeev Elkin), and the Communications Ministry (Yoaz Hendel).
Kahol Lavan’s Chili Tropper remains minister of culture and sports, while Pnina Tamano-Shata keeps the Aliyah and Integration Ministry.