Sunday , December 4 2022
Naftali Bennett would become prime minister for the first two years. Photograph: Nir Elias/Reuters

Israel: Opposition leader tells president he can form government bringing Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years in power  to an end

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The Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid announced Wednesday night that he has managed to form a coalition after a series of back-to-back meetings with the leaders of the anti-Netanyahu camp in the Knesset.

Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, announced an eight-faction coalition had been formed.

Under a rotation arrangement, the head of the right-wing Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, would serve as prime minister first before handing over to Mr. Lapid.

There still needs to be a parliamentary vote before the government is sworn in.

The formation of a ‘change government’ should, in theory, bring to an end 12 years in power for prime minister Mr. Netanyahu and two years of political stagnation with four inconclusive elections but there are still hurdles to jump.

In a statement, Mr. Lapid said he had informed President Reuven Rivlin of the agreement, adding: “I pledge that this government will work in the service of all Israeli citizens, those who voted for it and those who did not.

“It will respect its opponents and do everything in its power to unite and connect all parts of Israeli society.”

President Reuven Rivlin is seen speaking on the phone with Yair Lapid, who is informing him that he has formed a government. (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin is seen speaking on the phone with Yair Lapid, who is informing him that he has formed a government. (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

An image carried on Israeli media showed Mr. Lapid, Mr. Bennett, and Arab Islamist Raam party leader, Mansour Abbas, signing the agreement, a deal many thought impossible.
Mr Abbas told reporters: “The decision was hard and there were several disputes but it was important to reach agreements.” He said that there were “many things in this agreement for the benefit of Arab society”.

In his note to the president, Mr. Lapid said he would head the government alongside Mr. Bennett, who he would replace as prime minister on 27 August 2023.

Mr. Rivlin has called on parliament to convene as soon as possible to hold the confidence vote.

If the coalition fails to win the support of a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, there is a risk of the country having to go to elections for the fifth time in two years.

The coalition members span the full spectrum of Israeli politics. The parties have little in common politically apart from their plan to replace Mr. Netanyahu.

They are:
  • Yesh Atid (centrist) – led by Yair Lapid (17 seats)
  • Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) (centrist) – led by Benny Gantz (eight)
  • Israel Beiteinu (centre-right to right-wing nationalist) – led by Avigdor Lieberman (seven)
  • Labor (social-democratic) – led by Merav Michaeli (seven)
  • Yamina (right-wing) – led by Naftali Bennett (seven)
  • New Hope (centre-right to right-wing)- led by Gideon Sa’ar (six)
  • Meretz (left-wing, social-democratic) – led by Nitzan Horowitz (six)
  • Raam (Arab Islamist) – led by Mansour Abbas (four)

All eight factions were needed to pass the 61 majority figure.

Wednesday’s marathon talks took place in a hotel near Tel Aviv, with a large number of issues – from legalising cannabis to fines for illegal construction to the rotation of judicial selection committee posts – all on the agenda.

Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid and Mansour Abbas are seen signing a coalition deal. (photo credit: RA'AM)

Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid and Mansour Abbas are seen signing a coalition deal.
(photo credit: RA’AM)

Israeli media suggested that not all the elements were finalised, and this could still create doubts over whether the coalition will win its confidence vote.

Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won the most seats in March’s inconclusive poll, but he was unable to form a governing coalition after being given the mandate.

Mr Netanyahu had called the proposed new government the “fraud of the century”, saying it endangered the state and people of Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu’s defeat was sealed not by left-wing opponents but by fellow right-wingers he had made into enemies by his ruthless, high-handed tactics.

No one should expect big, new initiatives from the coalition, our correspondent says, adding that just surviving the onslaught Mr. Netanyahu is undoubtedly planning will be a full-time job.

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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