Israel Coalition Talks: Lapid Secures Deal With Labor as Talks With Right-wing Parties Advance

Yesh Atid leader, facing a Wednesday deadline, now has agreements with Yisrael Beiteinu, Meretz and Labor, whose members would get the transportation, diaspora affairs and public security ministries. Meanwhile, Lapid agrees to grant the right veto power on judicial appointments

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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יאיר לפיד ומרב מיכאלי, 2013
Yair Lapid and Merav Michaeli in the Knesset in 2013Credit: Michal Fattal
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

Yesh Atid and Labor announced on Friday that they have reached an agreement to form a government, with Yair Lapid's mandate to form a coalition set to expire on Wednesday. In a bid to secure a majority Knessset backing, party representatives also agreed to give right-wing parties greater power in judicial appointments, effectively granting them veto power.

The Labor-Yesh Atid agreement will grant control of the transportation, diaspora affairs and public security ministries to Labor, while its leader, Merav Michaeli, is slated to be one of nine members of the Judicial Appointments Committee.

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In coalition talks between Lapid's Yesh Atid and other potential coalition partners, it was agreed that the two seats on the judicial selection panel reserved for Knesset members will go to right-wing lawmakers. Together with New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar, who would be appointed justice minister in Lapid's future government, right-wing members of the panel can block a seven-vote majority needed to approve a nomination.

According to the agreements reached, Sa'ar and Michaeli would fill the two seats reserved for ministers on the committee. The two seats for Knesset members are traditionally split between a member of the coalition and a member of the opposition. The current Netanyahu-Gantz government chose to appoint two members of the coalition, but leaders of the anti-Netanyau bloc have agreed to hand over one of the seats back to the opposition, which would likely mean a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.

The agreement reached with Labor will also give it two seats in the influential national security cabinet, as well as the chairmanship of the Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

Yesh Atid and Labor also agreed to establish a department for progressive Judaism within the Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

A joint statement by the two parties pledged to improve the personal security of all citizens, strengthen the police and establish units to deal with crime in rural areas and in Arab society.

Lapid met with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett on Thursday, in their first meeting since the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas began earlier this month, during which Bennett said an anti-Netanyahu coalition was off the table.

Both Bennett’s Yamina and Lapid’s Yesh Atid refused to comment publicly on the talks, as both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the bloc of parties opposing him attempt to convince Yamina to join their potential coalition.

"We made major compromises to reach a deal with Bennett and Shaked, but they refuse to sign and continue to run toward a dangerous left-wing government," Netanyahu tweeted on Friday, referring to prominent Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked. "Bennett and Shaked – you promised not to join the left and not to go with Lapid. You regain your composure. Get a grip of yourselves!"

Bennett is expected to deliver a statement as early as Saturday evening.

New Hope's Sa'ar – a former member of Likud who has become Netanyahu's challanger – renewed coalition talks with Lapid on Thursday as well. In a joint statement, they said there was "progress" and some agreements were reached. The two teams said they will continue talks in the coming days "in order to form a government."

Earlier in the week, Lapid reached an agreement with Meretz and Yisrael Beiteinu, as he continues his efforts to form a coalition by the week’s end with all the parties in the anti-Netanyahu bloc.

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