Likud Coalition Chief Concedes Defeat

YERUSHALAYIM -
Likud MK Miki Zohar. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Likud MK Miki Zohar, the coalition whip, said on Wednesday that he doesn’t see any way to stop the government changeover.

When asked in a Channel 12 interview if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has any surprise maneuvers that could keep him in power, Zohar replied, “No. I don’t think so.”

Since Yair Lapid notified President Reuven Rivlin that he had succeeded in forming a government, Netanyahu has been trying to persuade members of the Yamina party to withdraw from it in order to take away their thin majority, but to no avail. Pressure from rabbinical leaders, right-wing politicians and protest demonstrations have likewise failed to budge them. On Wednesday, the Knesset scheduled the swearing-in for next Sunday at 4 p.m.

Zohar said that it’s too late for the right-wing leaders to turn back.

“Bennett understands that he’s lost all his supporters [were he to face the electorate again]. Gideon Saar has completely given up on his right-wing ideology, in order to achieve his personal, childish revenge against Netanyahu. And therefore I can’t see any situation where they’ll change course or mess up in the last minute. They’ve made their decision [to oust Netanyahu], including the huge price they’ll pay for it.”

Zohar said Likud’s decision yesterday to reserve three spots on its electoral list for any eleventh-hour defectors “was a kind of late-minute effort, pretty late, and pretty unlikely to succeed, in all honesty.”

“I of course voted in favor of the move in order to keep that chance alive, but it was plainly too late. Things over there [in the change bloc] have been worked out and sealed, and will lead to a [change bloc] government.”

Zohar said he anticipates Netanyahu staying on as Likud chairman to lead the party from the opposition “until we can bring down this lousy government that has been formed.”

However, not all the Likud officials are as loyal to the PM as Zohar. Several MKs have reportedly expressed unwillingness to give Netanyahu full control over the future of the faction in the Knesset.

If tradition prevails, the new opposition will head three Knesset committees — likely to be the State Oversight Committee, the Economy Committee, and the Science Committee — and some Likud members say they won’t let dictate who will be appointed, to according to Channel 12 news.

“This time we will not allow Netanyahu to set the rules of the game on his own,” a senior Likud member was quoted as saying.

Challengers to his leadership has already surfaced in recent weeks. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz have indicated that hope to succeed Netanyahu.

Former Yerushalayim mayor MK Nir Barkat is also viewed as a contender.