After Failed Coalition Talks, Netanyahu and Herzog to Lock Horns in Knesset

Summer session of Israeli parliament to get underway in shadow of coalition reshuffle. On the agenda: legislation aimed at exposing funding of left-wing NGOs.

Netanyahu and Herzog in the Knesset, 2014.
Olivieh Fitoussi

The Knesset will return from its spring recess on Monday for a session featuring back-to-back speeches by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, in what will be their first meeting since their negotiations over forming a unity government blew up.

The failure of those talks, coupled with the impending entry into the coalition of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party and his own appointment as defense minister, is likely to dictate the Knesset’s agenda over the next few weeks.

For Herzog, head of the Zionist Union faction, the Knesset’s summer term poses a significant challenge: He must rehabilitate his image as opposition leader, which was badly dented by his efforts to bring his party into the government. The left-wing Meretz party has already said it will no longer cooperate with him or attend meetings of the opposition factions. 

“There’s no point in taking part in the show of a fictitious opposition,” MK Ilan Gilon, head of Meretz’s Knesset faction, said on Sunday. “As long as Zionist Union hasn’t decided whether it will enter this nightmare government established by Netanyahu and Lieberman and Bennett, whether in the near future or the distant one, there’s no point in coordinating among the opposition just for show.” Naftali Bennett is the leader of another coalition party, Habayit Hayehudi.

Coalition sources predicted that once Lieberman’s party joins the government, the coalition will try to advance legislation to limit fundraising for political campaigns by nonprofit organizations – a bill popularly known as the V-15 bill, after an organization called V-15 that worked to defeat Netanyahu in the last election. The government will also likely seek to advance a bill allowing a supermajority of Knesset members to suspend or oust one of their numbers under certain circumstances.

But Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon will likely devote most of their effort to trying to draft the next two-year budget and mobilize enough support for it to pass when the cabinet votes on it in about another two months.