Parties Lining Up to Vote for Dispersing Knesset

Israeli opposition leader MK Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid, speaking in the Knesset. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

The fate of the government coalition was all but sealed on Tuesday night after Benny Gantz announced that his Blue and White party would vote for a non-confidence motion set for Wednesday, apparently giving it the majority needed for passage.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, who has been scathing in his criticism of Gantz for joining Netanyahu, welcomed the decision.

“It’s clear to all that Netanyahu cannot lead the country out of the coronavirus crisis. Israel needs a government that will work for the public. A svelte, stable government that will deal with real life. Real problems. Small businesses, unemployed, health. Not politics, not corruption and not press conferences,” he said in a statement.

The right-wing Yamina party will be sticking with the opposition. Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked said last week that her party was now “a leadership alternative” to Likud, and said people were tired of “the failing parties currently running the country.” Yamina leader Naftali Bennett “is able, worthy and needs to be the next prime minister,” she declared.

Yamina has risen to No. 2 party in the country, according to the polls, just a few mandates behind Likud, which has been slipping.

In a bid to augment their strength, chairman Naftali Bennett is reportedly courting the defection of a Likud MK who has gained notoriety for defying the coalition’s line on lockdowns. Walla news reported that Bennett has offered MK Yifat Shasha-Biton the number 2 slot on his electoral slate.

A source familiar with the matter tells the news outlet that Bennett was willing to give the lawmaker “anything she wants for her joining.”

However, Arutz Sheva quoted Bennett as saying that Ayelet Shaked is “the most talented politician” and “she will remain number 2 on my list.”

Some members of the coalition itself will be voting for dissolving the Knesset and calling elections.

Labor Party ministers Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli said earlier in the day they would vote with the opposition.

“It is not possible to continue to have a government whose most permanent thing is uncertainty, especially regarding the budget that has been taken captive by the prime minister due to personal considerations,” they said in a joint statement. “Instead of constant paralysis and an exchange of accusations, it is better to dissolve the Knesset and to go to the polls now.”

If so, they will be voting against their own political interests, as polls indicate that if an election were held now, they would lose their seats in the Knesset. Presumably, they are betting that their electoral prospects will improve before the country goes to the polls at least three months from now.

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel, leader of the Derech Eretz party, told Army Radio that his coalition faction’s two MKs will also support the measure.

“I can see only one path — going to elections,” Hendel said. “The government is not working well enough.”

Ra’am, a faction in the United Arab List, said on Tuesday evening that its four MKs in the Joint List are still undecided on how to vote.

“We will act to help our constituents, not to help the Left or Right, Lapid, Gantz, Netanyahu or Bennett.”

Even assuming the no-confidence motion carries on Wednesday, though, it’s not the end of the story.

“The government will not fall on Wednesday,” wrote Walla’s Tal Shalev. “Even if Gantz backs Yesh Atid’s bill to dissolve the Knesset, until it is approved on third reading the coalition can still take a ride on the Surprise Railroad… The real deadline is December 23 at midnight, or forever away in political terms.”

In Yisrael Hayom, Gideon Alon noted that “in Israel’s political history, there have been many cases in which, even after a vote to dissolve the Knesset was approved on preliminary and even first reading, the politicians who oppose early elections have managed to halt the process.”

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