Gantz Resigns as Knesset Speaker for Second Time Ahead of Sunday's Swearing In

Benny Gantz withdraws resignation as Knesset speaker ■ Earlier, two senior Likud lawmakers announce they will boycott vote after being snubbed from receiving ministries

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Netanyahu and Gantz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, November 2019.
Netanyahu and Gantz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, November 2019.Credit: Ohad Ziegenberg
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz resigned as Knesset speaker for the second time on Friday, ahead of the swearing in of the new government, planned for Sunday.

Gantz initially resigned on Tuesday, but rescinded his resignation Thursday due to the decision to push back the swearing-in of the government, originally set for Thursday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed the swearing-in of the new government to Sunday after speaking to Gantz and asking him for a delay in order to complete the distribution of ministry portfolios to his lawmakers.

Kahol Lavan, who almost finished distributing their portfolios, initially opposed the postponement, and Gantz even insisted that the swearing in of the government take place at all costs on Thursday night as originally planned.

In a joint statement from Kahol Lavan and Likud, the parties announced that the so-called “Norwegian Law” will be presented to the Knesset on Thursday "in an agreement between the parties." However, there is no final wording of the law, and the agreement states that all parties must support an alternative outline of the law - which defines how many ministers from each party (depending on their size) can resign. 

The new government was set to be sworn in on Thursday night, capping more than a year of political deadlock in Israel, with three back-to-back election cycles.

Outgoing Defense Minister and Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett denied reports of his party's negotiation with Likud, claiming it's "a spin" by the party. He stressed that the prime minister did not even attempt to include Yamina in the new government, and blamed Netanyahu compromising on some of the right-wing's key promises.

"Netanyahu erased sovereignty from the [government's] fundamental principles," Bennett said, suggesting this was because the matter "insulted Gantz's and [Gabi] Ashkenazi's secretly leftist feelings."

Bennett further said that "in recent days, the Palestinian Authority threatened that if it [annexation] was included in the government's principles they would cut off communication, threatening Netanyahu. But above all, Gantz and Ashkenazi threatened Netanyahu, so he surrendered and obliterated sovereignty" from the document.

Overnight Thursday, Rafi Peretz's Habayit Hayehudi faction split off from Yamina and joined the government. Peretz will serve as Jerusalem affairs minister.

Netanyahu on Wednesday formally informed President Reuven Rivlin and Gantz that he had succeeded in forming a government, which would have 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers, making it the biggest in Israel's history.

In response, Likud said Bennett "tossed his party to the opposition because he didn't get the health portfolio. He know this is the truth and that's why he's sweating and lying."

The statement claimed Bennett had contact with Gantz about joining a minority government and refused to recommend Netanyahu as their candidate for prime minister to President Reuven Rivlin despite promising voters to do so during the election campaign.

On Wednesday and Thursday the Likud, Kahol Lavan and the other coalition partners submitted their agreements to the Knesset, as well as the fundamentals of the new government.

As of Thursday afternoon, Netanyahu and his coalition partners haven't completed talks on ministerial appointments, some of which would only apply to the first half the government's term, before Gantz is set to take over as prime minister in a year and a half.

Long time Netanyahu loyalist and Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi as well as Likud MK Avi Dichter, tenth in the list, decided to boycott the swearing-in ceremony given that Netanyahu did not offer them posts in the new government.

"Ministerial positions were proposed to those who are far behind in the Likud list and even for MKs who are not part of the Likud party," Dichter told his associates. "Such disrespect is not only to me, but a spit in the faces of 130,000 Likud members who chose me in the top ten of Likud."

Deputy Defense Minister and former Shin Bet Director Avi Dichter also expressed dismay at Netanyahu, saying that he was told to find a job outside the government. "I rejected this outright. I was promised a meeting. To this day, I did not receive an offer and was not invited to a meeting," said the Likud MK. 

Gantz met with Kahol Lavan MK Michael Biton Thursday afternoon, a few hours before the swearing in of the government, and offered him to serve as a minister in the Defense Ministery, which Biton accepted. Additionally, Gantz also offered the post of Chairman of the Foreign and Defense Committee to Kahol Lavan MK Zvi Hauser.

On Friday, Netanyahu decided to appoint Likud MK Ofir Akunis to head the Regional Cooperation Ministry. Akunis will take office immediately after the government approves the appointment of Gilad Erdan to the position of Israeli ambassador to the United States and the United Nations.

These are the appointments confirmed or reported so far:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Kahol Lavan)

Foreign Affairs Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (Kahol Lavan)

Finance Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud)

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn (Kahol Lavan)

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana (Likud)

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud)

Transportation and National infrastructure Minister Miri Regev (Likud)

Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir (Kahol Lavan)

Negev and Galilee Development Minister and Interior Minister Arye Dery (Shas)

Economy Minister Amir Peretz (Labor)

Housing and Construction Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism)

Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli (Labor)

Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Kahol Lavan)

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel (Derech Eretz)

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud)

Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud)

Immigrant Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Kahol Lavan)

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper (Kahol Lavan)

Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen (Kahol Lavan)

Diaspora Minister Omer Yankelevich (Kahol Lavan)

Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster (Kahol Lavan)

Knesset Liaison Minister David Amsalem (Likud)

Community Development Minister Orli Levi-Abekasis (Gesher)

Religious Services Minister Yaakov Avitan (Shas)

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz (Habayit Hayehudi)

Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay (Kahol Lavan)

Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud)

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