LISTEN: In his final days, Bibi unleashes his most toxic minions
It seems that the penny dropped only on Sunday afternoon. The formal announcement by Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin that a new government would be sworn in within a week brought home the message. Lawmakers and ministers from Likud and the ultra-Orthodox parties finally got it that cleaving to Benjamin Netanyahu had led them into a political deathtrap.
Just like he dragged them into four consecutive elections, he’s now dragging them into the opposition, who knows for how long. He is their collective punishment even though they don’t think they sinned.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin said that the Bennett-Lapid government will be sworn in on June 13, next Sunday, following a confidence vote by parliament.
Levin added that the plenum will also vote on a new Knesset speaker on Sunday.
Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett denied on Monday that he and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid were considering pursuing a law preventing someone who served as prime minister in the past eight years from being elected to the next Knesset. Because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already been elected to the current Knesset, the ramifications of such a law for him would be that if he brings down a Bennett-Lapid government sometime in the next four years, he will not be eligible to run in the following election.
"There is no, there never was, and there will be no agreement about preventing [someone from] running for the Knesset," Bennett said. "This was a proposal that was raised, was not agreed upon, and will not be happening. The only thing that will happen and that was agreed is limiting the enture of a prime minister to eight years or two terms."
Netanyahu's Likud party seized on media reports that Bennett and Lapid were considering such a move in order to accuse Bennett of anti-democratic tendencies. "Bennett is turning Israel into a benighted dictatorship – North Korea meets Iran," a Likud statement read. "Prime Minister Netanyahu fights Iran, and Bennett brings a law from Iran. This law will remove Israel from the society of enlightened democracies and put it among the darkest tyrannical regimes … Bennett is crossing every red line in his insane chase for the prime minister's seat at any price."
Clauses from the coalition agreements between the parties in the Bennett-Lapid government revealed on Monday that Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett will not necessarily be committed to agreements signed by Yesh Atid Leader Yair Lapid with other parties in the coalition.
For example, Yamina would not necessarily be obligated to a clause in the coalition agreement with Meretz that promises advancement on legislation advancing the standing of the LGBTQ community, or to repeal the Kaminetz Law as the United Arab List's agreement stipulates. Both Bennett and Lapid, who will serve as alternate prime minister, will have veto power over any government decision.
The coalition agreements also preserve the Norwegian Law, allowing up to 26 ministers and deputies to step down from their role as Knesset members and allow other members of their parties to fill those seats. Parties with six seats will allow up to three lawmakers to resign. Parties with seven to nine seats will be able to have four members resign their Knesset seats, and parties with over ten can allow up to five members to resign. The security cabinet will include 12 members, with parity between the two blocs. The prime minister will determine the cabinet's agenda.
The coalition agreement between Yamina and Yesh Atid will act as an umbrella agreement, which will obligate all the parties and will be added as an addendum to each of their individual coalition agreements. Clauses can be added to coalition agreements with the agreement of both Bennett and Lapid. All party leaders read and approved the agreements with all other party members.
The far-right Religious Zionism party quickly condemned the agreements after their contents emerged. "Naftali Bennett has completely lost his senses morally," a party statement read, which accused the Yamina chairman of aiming to become "an illegitimate prime minister with six seats." The party claimed that the agreements "expose the liquidation sale of the Negev and the Galilee, damage to the state's Jewish character and a severe perversion of democracy and the will of the people." It was not too late, however, Religious Zionism argued, calling for "one hero with a moral compass and conscience to develop a moral spine and announce his opposition, and then instead of the establishment of a government by the bizarre left and terror supporters, a national government will be formed."
The Labor Party overwhelmingly approved the party's inclusion in a new Bennett-Lapid government, as well as amending its constitution to enshrine full gender parity in its ranks, with 97 percent of its Central Committee voting in favor of the motion on Monday.
Party Chairwoman Merav Michaeli said that unlike previous party conferences, "which approved entering Netanyahu governments as an unnecessary add-on, this conference approved the Labor Party's important role in establishing the 'change government' that will replace Netanyahu and bring about the end of his rule."
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin formally announced he had been notified by Yair Lapid a new government had been agreed upon, informing lawmakers a confidence vote will be held by next Monday.
Likud's Levin said the exact date of the new government's swearing-in will be announced later.
According to the coalition agreements, 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. Even after the members of all the coalition parties met on Sunday, some issues still have yet to be resolved.
Labor chairwoman Merav Michaeli said in a statement she believes the new government “will be sworn in over the coming days,” rejecting criticism from Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. “The public is longing for calm, for a government that will work for them,” Michaeli said at the opening of her Knesset faction meeting.
Michaeli also said the Labor Party central committee approved a proposal to ensure gender balance in all positions held by the parties, and formally endorsed Labor’s participation in the new government “that will bring Netanyahu’s rule to an end.”
At the beginning of his Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, Yair Lapid addressed Netanyahu's supporters, telling them that the government he has formed with Naftali Bennett "isn't against you. It'll be yours, too."
He said he knows that the formation of this unity government poses "a major crisis" for them, but "it will work for you, it will respect you, it is also for you. It will also be a government for Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism voters."
The government will remain steady, he said, "because it came to work. The past days have proven just how badly we need change. If a government uses violence and incitement against lawmakers, against their children, against the very existence of the democratic process, it demands change."
Only days after the head of the Shin Bet security service warned that Israel’s increasingly heated political rhetoric could boil over into physical violence, one of the prime minister’s political allies compared two of the leaders of the anti-Netanyahu change bloc to terrorists on a suicide mission during a televised interview on Sunday.
“What is most dangerous in public leaders is when they have nowhere to go back to. And [Yamina chairman Naftali] Bennett and [New York leader Gideon] Sa’ar have nowhere to go back to,” Likud lawmaker May Golan declared during an appearance on the Knesset Channel, reflecting the anger of some on the right at the decision of the two former Netanyahu supporters to seek to oust the longtime leader.
“And while there are obvious differences, I compare them to suicide bombers,” she said, adding that the two politicians “no longer believe in anything.”
The draft coalition agreement between the Yesh Atid and Yamina parties says that if the government fails to pass a state budget within 100 days after its formation, the government will collapse and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid will not succeed Yamina's Naftali Bennett as prime minister.
The rotation agreement, which was reviewed by Lapid and Bennett Sunday evening, is based mainly on a similar accord between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz in the current government. However, it makes several changes to ensure that it is honored.
Sources involved in the talks said both sides were acutely aware of the budget issue, which brought down the Netanyahu government, and that the agreement is ultimately based on trust between Lapid and Bennett. However, Yesh Atid is reportedly seeking defense mechanisms that would go into force in the latter part of Bennett’s term as prime minister on the assumption that if the agreement is going to be violated, it won’t happen in the government's first few months.
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.’”
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.”