Netanyahu's Party Scores Tactical Win as Challengers Admit 'Difficulties'

An influential Knesset committee approves Likud's proposal on interim parliamentary committees, including one on the Arab community, headed by Islamist leader who has flirted with the idea of backing Netanyahu

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Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar at the Knesset, today.
Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar at the Knesset, today.Credit: Noam Moskowitz/Knesset

An influential Knesset committee that could decide the fate of ongoing coalition talks, in the wake of Israel's inconclusive March election, approved on Monday a proposal tabled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.

Meanwhile, the leading contenders seeking to replace Netanyahu admitted "difficulties" over the past days in negotiations to form a so-called "pro-change" unity government.

The Arrangements Committee approved the formation of three interim Knesset committees, including a special panel on "issues concerning the Arab community," in an apparent bid to court United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas, who is expected to head it.

The leader of the anti-LGBTQ Noam party, Avi Maoz, will be a member of the committee and represent the far-right Religious Zionism slate.

According to the text brought before the Arrangements Committee by its head, Likud's Miki Zohar, Abbas would also serve as one of three deputy Knesset speakers, alongside a Shas and a Yamina lawmaker – and none from parties who have ruled out joining a Netanyahu-led government.

An interim Finance Committee and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee were also approved. As expected, the proposal passed a vote by the full Knesset later on Monday.

New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar, speaking ahead of a faction meeting, said that the anti-Netanyahu bloc is running out of time, but that it’s “important to make the most” of the situation. “We have a commitment to the citizens of Israel, which is to do our best to prevent a fifth election."

Yamina's Naftali Bennett said his party will join “any right-wing government,” whether it is under Netanyahu’s leadership or any other right-wing leader.

A national unity government, he said, is “not an easy thing,” and it “requires a lot of moderation and restraint on all sides.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid spoke shortly after, saying that if everyone shows leadership and responsibility, it is possible find a solution within 10 days. "We, on our part, will do everything" to make that happen, Lapid said. 

An unexpected announcement by Likud's Zohar earlier on Monday on the planned Arrangements Committee sparked the ire of the anti-Netanyahu bloc members, who said they would oppose the move. 

Meretz lawmaker Esawi Freige called the newly approved Arab affairs panel "a committee for political bribery... You've crossed a red line. You should be ashamed."

The Joint List, an alliance of three Arab-majority parties, said in a statement the new committee would only push Arabs away from circles of influence, setting them aside from the general population.

The committee, whose authorities remain unclear, will be responsible for handling violence and crime in Arab society. According to Zohar, the committee will also discuss economic development, planning and construction, education and welfare in the Arab community.  

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