Bennett Set to Announce Forming ‘Change’ Government

YERUSHALAYIM -
Head of the Yamina party Naftali Bennett. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Barring any last-minute unforeseen circumstances – and that certainly can’t be ruled out, considering the number of times this has been up and down – Yamina leader Naftali Bennett is set to announce in a meeting with his faction on Sunday that he has agreed to form a coalition government with Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, sources in the faction said Motzoei Shabbos.

Bennett informed Lapid of his decision on Friday. They agreed that Bennett would serve first as prime minister until September 2023, after which Lapid would take over until the term ends in November 2025. But sources in Yamina said there are still some disputes with Yesh Atid that remain unresolved.

Final coalition deals will be signed by Monday and submitted to the Knesset. The swearing-in ceremony could take place as early as this Wednesday, the last day of Lapid’s mandate, but legally, once Lapid tells President Reuven Rivlin that he could form a government, he has a week to bring the government to a vote of confidence in the Knesset.

MKs and other candidates in Yamina who oppose building a coalition that would replace Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be asked to resign by Monday in order to be replaced by a candidate who would vote in favor of the government, because the support of at least six of the seven MKs in Yamina is necessary for a majority.

In a video released Friday, Netanyahu lashed out at Bennett, accusing him of joining forces with the political left to serve his ambition of becoming a head of government.

In the video, Netanyahu charged that Likud and Yamina negotiators had reached a “comprehensive” agreement to form a minority government of 59 MKs but Bennett then refused to sign it.

The unusual arrangement, Netanyahu said, was aimed to prevent the prospect of a “leftist government.”

“Naftali Bennett is taking a leftward turn,” Netanyahu added. “This goes against all of Yamina’s stated principles and pledges, against all that is necessary to safeguard the future of our state.”

If the “change” government is actually formed, MK Ayelet Shaked, number two on Yamina’s list, is expected to head the Interior Ministry, while Blue and White’s chief MK Benny Gantz will continue in his position as defense minister. At least one other Blue and White MK will also receive an office.

MK Gideon Sa’ar, head of the New Hope party, is expected to be appointed justice minister, and his number two, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, is expected to receive the Education Ministry.

MK Avigdor Liberman, who heads Yisrael Beytenu, is expected to be appointed finance minister. According to the agreement, Yisrael Beytenu will also receive two other portfolios, including the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee. In addition, a member of his party will head the Finance Committee.

MK Merav Michaeli, Labor chairwoman, will serve on the Judicial Selection Committee and as transportation minister or public security minister. The Labor party will also receive the Diaspora Ministry and a member of the party will head the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

The Meretz party will be part of the government for the first time in over 20 years, and is expected to receive three ministries. Party leader Nitzan Horowitz will serve as health minister, while MK Tamar Zandberg will serve as environmental protection minister and MK Esawi Frej will receive the regional cooperation ministry.