'Crossing Red Lines': Netanyahu and Allies Up Pressure on Lawmakers to Torpedo New Government

Netanyahu's party calls on supporters to demonstrate outside the homes of lawmakers in last-ditch effort to keep Bennett-Lapid coalition from being formed

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Protesters against the formation of a Bennett-Lapid government as lawmakers meet for negotiations, Ramat Gan, Wednesday.
Protesters against the formation of a Bennett-Lapid government as lawmakers meet for negotiations, Ramat Gan, Wednesday.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The leaders of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc intensified their pressure campaign on Thursday against rival lawmakers in a last-ditch bid to prevent them from forming a new government.

The prime minister and his allies’ focus has thus far been on prodding lawmakers belonging to the right-wing Yamina party, whose leader Naftali Bennett is set to assume the premiership once the emergent coalition is voted into power by the Knesset, as well as on Mansour Abbas, whose United Arab List party is set to be part of the future coalition government headed by Bennett and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid.

On Thursday, Netanyahu’s Likud party called on its supporters to demonstrate outside the homes of Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked, second on the party’s election slate, and Nir Orbach, who has expressed reservations about supporting his party’s chosen course. Shaked was recently assigned a security detail after the Shin Bet warned of a rise in incitement against her, as were Bennett and Lapid.

Yamina lawmaker Amichai Chikli announced last month that he would oppose the formation of a Bennett-Lapid government and should Orbach join him, the Bennett-Lapid bloc would have to secure support from outside the coalition.

Taking to Twitter on Wednesday evening, only hours before Bennett and Lapid submitted their coalition to President Reuven Rivlin, coalition whip Miki Zohar of Likud called on Orbach and fellow Yamina lawmaker Idit Silman to defeat the effort, declaring that “they can still save the day.”

“If they make this decision, it will bring about the support of hundreds of thousands of Israelis who will appreciate their heroism,” he tweeted. “If it were up to me, I would be happy to have such heroes with us in Likud.”

On Wednesday, Silman told The New York Times that she had been receiving a steady stream of harassing and threatening texts from opponents of the new government. “It’s very hard,” she said.

On Thursday, Orbach asked to retract his signature from a petition to replace Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin with Yesh Atid lawmaker Mickey Levy in an effort to enable the new coalition government to be sworn in as early as possible.

Knesset rules require that the new government be sworn in no later than a week from the next time that the Knesset convenes, meaning no later than a week from June 14. The longer Levin remains in office, the longer he can delay the swearing-in – up to June 21 at the latest.

According to the religious Zionist Makor Rishon newspaper, Alon Davidi, who was elected to the Knesset as number three on the Yamina roster but quit in April to return to his job as mayor of Sderot before taking office, met with Orbach in the Knesset on Wednesday to convince him not to support a Bennett-Lapid government.

Orbach also spoke with leading religious Zionist rabbi and former National Religious Party lawmaker Haim Druckman, who was quoted as saying that he told the lawmaker “that he will not agree to vote for this government.”

Yamina lawmaker Matan Kahana, who is slated to become religious services minister in the new government, was quoted in the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom as saying that members of his party were “under tremendous pressure” not to vote for the establishment of the coalition.

“It’s everywhere,” he said. “Social media, phone calls, protests outside homes – to the point of crossing some red lines. Some lawmakers feel their children are being threatened. The prime minister is definitely stirring the pot, but not just him.”

In his first public remarks since the new coalition was announced on Wednesday, Netanyahu called on “all Knesset members elected by right-wing votes” to come out in opposition to a “dangerous” and “left-wing” Lapid-Bennett government.

In a series of tweets, Netanyahu slammed Bennett for “selling out” to Islamist party United Arab List by agreeing to some of its demands on house demolitions, unrecognized Bedouin villages and budgets to handle issues affecting the Arab community.

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