Haste comes above concerns over Prime Minister Benjamin, sources say NetanyahuYamina’s efforts to convince Yamina members to oppose the government, following MP Amichai Chikli’s announcement last week that he will vote against.
Netanyahu and his Likud party are pressuring Yamina as a whole, as well as individual MPs, not to join Lapid in forming a government, with efforts to get other lawmakers in Bennett’s right-wing party to adopt Chikli’s position.
In order to bypass NetanyahuLapid and Bennett’s efforts are working to finalize coalition agreements between the parties within the next two days, the sources said.
Then Education Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid at a ceremony in Netiv Ha’avot, West Bank Elazar settlement, July 23 2017 (Credit: Gershon Elinson / Flash90)
Lapid and Bennett’s respective negotiating teams held marathon talks Saturday night into the wee hours of Sunday morning, during which “significant progress” was made, public broadcaster Kan reported. The network also said the two hope to reach negotiating deals by Monday.
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According to the report, the general mechanisms and basic principles under which such a government would operate have been widely agreed, and the main point of contention now is the distribution of ministries and Knesset positions within the coalition.
Lapid, who last week received the presidential mandate to try to form a government, is leading the negotiations on behalf of the center-left. The parties are believed to have agreed that Bennett would serve as prime minister for the first two years of government, Lapid for the last two.
The coalition-building efforts of the “change bloc” are hanging by a thread, however, as opposition from other MPs could potentially sabotage them: without Chikli, the potential change bloc, including Yamina, has 57 seats in parliament against 53 (including Chikli) for the party supporting Netanyahu.
While the government does not need an absolute majority of 61 seats in the Knesset, which has 120 seats, it needs more MPs to vote for it than those who oppose it. The Islamist Raam party, with four seats, could therefore take the change bloc to 61, or prevent the formation of a government by giving the 57 pro-Netanyahu bloc and causing a tie.
Lapid and Bennett were due to meet with party chairman Mansour Abbas on Sunday in an attempt to convince Ra’am to support the new government.
Abbas has so far resisted support from either side, positioning himself as a so-called kingmaker by saying that he will support a government best placed to deal with the problems facing the Israeli Arab community. ‘it represents.
He will not, however, seek a ministerial position in the new government and will instead suffice as chair of a Knesset committee – be it home affairs or economic affairs – change bloc sources said on Sunday.
Beyond Abbas’ support and preventing Yamina’s defections, the change bloc is also working to resolve several disagreements between the seven parties that would make up the potential government – Yesh Atid, Yamina, Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu, New Hope. , Labor and Meretz. .
Lapid is reportedly foreign minister in Bennett’s cabinet, with Chief Yisrael Beytenu Avigdor Liberman as finance minister, but a number of disagreements remain between the seven parties over several key ministries.
Channel 12 reported that Yamina has given potential partners an ultimatum that Bennett’s close ally, Ayelet Shaked, must be appointed justice minister or there will be no deal. Shaked held the position in 2015-2019.
The justice portfolio is currently also claimed by New Hope party leader Gideon Saar. Saar had preferred the defense portfolio, but Blue and White’s Benny Gantz insists on keeping it.
Channel 12 said Yamina claimed most of the government’s main so-called “ideological” portfolios, including justice, religious affairs, public security and education, leaving few high-level positions for other parties.
The Education Department is specifically a sticking point, with Nitzan Horowitz of the left-wing Meretz party claiming the post, while New Hope wanting it for its own Yifat Shasha-Biton.
Haaretz also reported that the parties were considering a rotation of the Knesset presidency between Meir Cohen of Yesh Atid and Ze’ev Elkin of New Hope.
Before Lapid got the mandate, Netanyahu himself was given the first chance for 28 days, but failed to convince enough Knesset members to support his coalition. Bennett himself had pledged to support Netanyahu if he could concoct a government, but Netanyahu was unable to convince far-right religious Zionism to join, because in order to achieve a majority Knesset he had to rely on the support of Ra’am from outside the coalition.
If Lapid fails to build a coalition during his 28-day window, which ends on June 2, any member of the Knesset could try to get the approval of a majority of lawmakers for the prime minister’s post. If that 21-day period does not result in a coalition, the country would be forced into the unprecedented scenario of a fifth election in two and a half years.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.