Unity Deal Threatens to Squeeze Out Right-Wing

YERUSHALAYIM -
An empty avenue outside the Knesset, on Sunday, during the partial lockdown. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Efforts to finalize a deal with Benny Gantz has caused loud rumblings of discontent in Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, which stands to lose ministerial portfolios in the pursuit of a unity government.

As speculation on the apportioning of senior positions swirled in the media on Sunday, Netanyahu ‏‏got on the phone with his coalition partners to tell them that it’s “total fake news.”

The Yamina party in particular expressed fears that they would be short-changed in the negotiations.

Former Justice Minister MK Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) said on Sunday that “appointing left-wingers to head the Ministries of Justice and Defense grants them control over the ideological foundation of the future government. It means the destruction of the revolution we brought to the Justice Ministry as well as the regularization efforts we made in Yehuda and Shomron in recent years.”

It was reported that Netanyahu has agreed to a Blue and White MK being justice minister, provided the MK is vetted by the Likud.

Party officials were quoted by Arutz Sheva as saying that if Netanyahu gives a disproportionate number of key positions to Benny Gantz’s center-left MKs, they might withdraw from the coalition.

According to reports, Gantz will be getting an equal or near-equal share of ministerial appointments, even though he brings only 15 MKs to the table, and each one is being promised a ministerial job.

Gantz is said to be set to serve initially as Defense Minister before taking over as prime minister in September 2021. Gabi Ashkenazi, supplanting Yair Lapid as Gantz’s No. 2, is the putative Foreign Minister, who will move over to the Defense Ministry when Gantz becomes prime minister.

The Likud is expected to retain the Public Security portfolio (to go to Miri Regev, a former IDF spokesperson), Finance, Transportation, Education, Health Interior, Energy and Religious Affairs portofolios, among others.

Likud MK Amir Ohana reportedly will move over from Justice to Transportation, bumping Betzalel Smotrich.

The chareidi parties will keep two important posts. Rabbi Yaakov Litzman will stay on as Health Minister and Rabbi Moshe Gafni will continue to serve as chairman of the powerful Knesset Finance Committee.

The Knesset Speaker will be Yariv Levin, until now Tourism Minister.

The Economy Ministry will go to Labor party head Amir Peretz, according to Channel 13, and Labor MK Itzik Shmueli will likely become Welfare Minister.