Israeli opposition reveals unusual pact to form government, without Netanyahu
By Pablo Duer
Jerusalem, Jun 2 (EFE).- Israeli opposition parties on Wednesday reached an agreement to form a coalition without current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, if the country’s Parliament – the Knesset – ratifies the accord, will have to step down after 12 consecutive years in office.
The agreement was foreshadowed on Saturday and was almost announced on Sunday, and since Monday the entire country has been on tenterhooks about the matter, but finally it was confirmed: the political bloc opposing Netanyahu had reached a pact to form a government.
Shortly before midnight, which was the deadline for agreeing to form a government, opposition leader Yair Lapid informed Israeli President Reuben Rivlin that an accord had been reached among seven opposition parties.
“I promise you, Mr. President, that this government will work to serve all the citizens of Israel,” said Lapid, adding that he will do everything in his power “to unite all parts of Israeli society.”
This government, which must be ratified in the next 12 days, will consist of a strange mixture of parties, including ultrarightists and leftists, conservative religious and lay groups, and even an Islamist party, something that is unprecedented in Israeli history.
Another of the specifics of the new government will be that it will include two prime ministers: religious ultranationalist Naftali Benet, the leader of Yamina, will hold the post for two years before transferring it to Lapid, a lay centrist who heads the Yesh Atid party.
The founding document of the new government also includes the signatures of the other parties’ leaders: the ultrarightist Israel Our Home, the center-right Blue and White alliance, the center-left Labor Party, the leftist and pacifist Meretz and the Islamist Raam party.
Although the ministerial portfolios have not formally been allocated, local media reported Wednesday that Beny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White alliance, will remain as defense minister, and Lapid and Benet will also alternate in the post of foreign minister, when they are not serving as prime minister.
The justice ministerial post will be occupied by Gideon Saar, who heads the New Hope party, while Avigdor Lieberman, with Israel Our Home, will head the Finance Ministry.
In addition, Labor leader Merav Michaeli will be the new transportation minster and Nitzan Horowitz, the leader of Meretz, will head the Health Ministry.
The rotation agreement between Benet and Lapid provides that the former will occupy the premiership until September 2023, when he will turn over the post to Lapid, who up until now has been foreign minister and who will then head the Israeli government until November 2025.
All this, however, depends on the new government obtaining the support of at least 61 lawmakers in the Knesset on inauguration day, something that still is not guaranteed.
So far, and even at the inauguration ceremony, nothing is guaranteed and everything could change, since the agreements reached on Wednesday by the parties are of a political nature and not legally binding, attorney Tomer Naor, a member of the Movement for a Quality Government in Israel, told EFE.
This is particularly relevant considering the fragile nature of the coalition announced on Wednesday, not only due to the diversity of the parties within it but also because it has a majority of just 62 lawmakers in the 120-seat chamber.
While one member of Yamina has already said that he could vote against the formation of a new government, others have expressed their own doubts, and thus the coming days will be decisive in the continuing negotiations and attempts to find agreement to guarantee the necessary votes to establish the new government.
Meanwhile, the parties that are not part of the new prospective government, including Netanyahu’s Likud, may be able to dispute the legality of the agreements reached among the opposition parties in an attempt to derail its formation.
If the new government comes to fruition, however, Netanyahu would leave office after 12 years and would then lead the Israeli opposition as the head of Likud.
In addition, Israel theoretically would emerge from a political logjam of more than two years that has included four general elections.