Lapid Prepares to Announce New Government With Bennett on Wednesday

Both Yesh Atid and Yamina don’t view any of their potential disputes as unresolvable

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Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, May 2021.
Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, May 2021.Credit: Debbie Hill/Reuters

The negotiating teams of the three parties that have yet to sign coalition agreements – Yamina, New Hope and Kahol Lavan – gathered Monday night for a marathon of discussions with the Yair Lapid's team in an effort to reduce the gaps between the parties’ positions and get closer to signing.

The discussions are expected to continue through Tuesday morning, with Yesh Atid predicting that by Wednesday afternoon, Lapid will be able to announce that he has a government.

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The negotiations with Yamina are focusing on the issues earmarked as problematic from the start in terms of getting the other parties’ agreement: A representative on the Committee for Judicial Appointments, the Negev and Galilee portfolio, the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee and matters of religion and state. Both sides, however, don’t view any of these disputes as unresolvable.

During the discussions, Ayelet Shaked demanded Merav Michaeli’s place on the Judicial Appointments Committee as the second government representative (the first must be the interior minister, who chairs the committee, and who is expected to be Gideon Sa’ar). The Labor party objects to this demand, which Shaked is making as a condition for her entering the government.

Yamina is also demanding the Negev and Galilee portfolio for Shaked, which had been earmarked for her during the first round of coalition negotiations before the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas. It is now in the hands of Yisrael Beiteinu. When Yesh Atid and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu signed their coalition agreement, sources in Yesh Atid stressed that they had given Lieberman’s party the portfolio that had been meant for Shaked in order to “wake up Yamina,” as they put it.

As a result, some political observers estimate that all the other points that could be explosive for Yamina have been inserted into the agreements to give Bennett imaginary “achievements” in the negotiations and persuade him to join the government.

New Hope is discussing the division of jobs and Sa’ar’s demands for reforms to the legal system, first and foremost the splitting of the attorney general’s position into two separate jobs: general prosecutor and legal adviser. This was a campaign promise of Sa’ar’s that he is insisting on. New Hope is expected to get four ministries.

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, May 2021.Credit: Yonatan Sindel/AP

There was tension between Kahol Lavan and Yesh Atid when Lieberman hinted that Gantz was trying to scuttle the formation of the alternative government by fighting for the agriculture portfolio, so that he can string along the transitional government and become prime minister in November, as per his original rotation agreement with Netanyahu. In response, Kahol Lavan said, “We are committed to the ‘change government’ and are working to set it up, and believe it will be established in the next few hours. We advise everyone to conduct their negotiations in closed rooms and not with unnecessary declarations.”

Kahol Lavan is fighting to get the agriculture portfolio as its fourth portfolio, though in the end it might compromise on another ministry.

Mansour Abbas of the United Arab List and Shaked held a meeting in the Knesset and discussed the possibility of a deputy interior minister being named from the UAL. Bennett and Sa’ar lean toward objecting to his request, but Shaked is unequivocally opposed, which is why Abbas discussed it with her. UAL sources, however, said Abbas will not insist, because there are those in his party who don’t want to be part of the government, even with a deputy minister. Before the Gaza operation, Abbas had demanded a deputy minister’s post, but withdrew that demand after the fighting began. He renewed the request only this week.

Lapid said during the opening of his party’s faction meeting on Monday: “It’s a complex negotiation between seven parties that can blow up at any moment.” Sa’ar also said at his faction meeting that “even now there is no certainty that the government of change will be established, but we will do our best for it to happen.”

As for Netanyahu’s accusation that the government of change is a leftist government, Sa’ar responded: “‘Left-wing government’ is a deceitful term for a government that would be heterogeneous if formed, but most of its members would be from the center and the right. It’s important to say that political rivals, on the left as well, are not enemies. They represent citizens who serve in the military and love the country.”

Lapid also said Monday at his meeting that he and his partners-to-be, Bennett and Shaked, are the subjects of threats because of their plan to establish a government of change. “Shaked was assigned security because they want to murder her. Bennett has bodyguards, I have bodyguards,” Lapid said. “We’re all being threatened with murder and violence.”

The security around Bennett and Shaked has been raised to one level below the highest, making the security for the two lawmakers on a par with that of government ministers. Police will intensify patrols around their houses, and both will have permanent security guards based in their homes. Bennett will also use an armored vehicle for specific activities.

According to police sources, there is currently no specific investigation into incitement against Bennett or Shaked, but the police are collecting intelligence on the matter and monitoring online activity.

Bar Peleg contributed to this story.

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