Despite the bad blood between them, Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett reportedly plans to use his speech at Sunday’s swearing-in of the new government to praise outgoing premier Benjamin Netanyahu and thank him for his service to the country.
While Netanyahu has spent the past several weeks disparaging Bennett for forming a “dangerous” government that will replace him as premier after 12 years, the prime minister-designate will not criticize the Likud leader and will adopt a conciliatory approach, Channel 12 reported on Friday.
Bennett will also seek to reassure the public that the new, eight-party government will work for all sectors, including those that have not supported his decision to build a coalition with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and more left-leaning parties as well as Islamist Ra’am, the network said.
Meanwhile Lapid, who will serve as foreign minister for the initial period of the next government, plans to travel to the US as soon as this month in order to iron out relations with the Biden administration, Channel 12 said. The White House has worked with Netanyahu and avoided public quarrels over the past several months, but will likely not be shedding a tear over the Likud leader’s replacement, given how radioactive he has become in the Democratic Party.
The new government is expected to be equally opposed to the Biden administration’s plan to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, though parties that have spoken about keeping disagreements with the US behind closed doors will represent an overwhelming majority at the cabinet table.
The new government is slated to be sworn in at a vote on Sunday with the anticipated 61-strong support from the coalition’s eight parties — Yamina, New Hope, Yisrael Beytenu, Blue and White, Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz and Ra’am.
Yamina MK Amichai Chikli has declared that he will vote against the Bennett-Lapid government, meaning if any other MK decides to do the same, the unity coalition would require an opposition member, potentially from the majority-Arab Joint List, to back the coalition or abstain on the matter. (Yamina has announced that all six of its remaining lawmakers will back the new government.)
The government’s 28 ministers will have the authority to enter their offices and immediately begin working once they are sworn in.
However, one person expected not to immediately move out of his digs is Netanyahu, who Channel 12 reported will be allowed to remain in the official Prime Minister’s Residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street for several additional weeks until his and his family’s belongings are packed and removed.
After Ehud Barak replaced Netanyahu as prime minister in 1999, the latter remained in the Balfour residence for over a month with his family.
Bennett has said that with four children in four different schools, he does not plan to leave his Ra’anana residence in order to move fully into Balfour. He is expected to use the official residence some of the time, however, and Channel 12 analysts speculated that he would eventually move in more fully, for practical reasons and given the significant symbolism that the Balfour residence carries.
In the meantime, Netanyahu’s office has yet to reach out to the Yamina chairman and his staff in order to coordinate the transition of power, Channel 12 said. Indeed, there has been no contact between the Netanyahu and Bennett bureaus, it said.
Netanyahu’s office has refused to state whether the prime minister will be attending the traditional handover ceremony of the premiership on Monday, with aides saying such discussion is premature and Netanyahu vowing to seek to woo defectors to prevent the new coalition from winning Knesset approval.
Channel 12 also reported that Netanyahu’s family — his wife, Sara and sons Yair and Avner — will continue to have their own personal security guards for at least a year at the taxpayer’s expense.
Yair Netanyahu appeared Friday to have absorbed that his father would not be able to thwart the impending government, and thanked him in an emotional post.
“Dad, I adore and love you so much! You are one of the greatest leaders the Jewish people have ever had! Thank you for all you have done for our country in the past few decades!”
Yair lauded his father for various achievements in war and peace as premier, “despite the witch hunt, the incitement and humiliation against you and our family by the Israeli media and the deep state.”
Netanyahu himself has called the assembling of Bennett’s government “the greatest fraud in Israeli history,” and said Bennett is in league with the so-called “deep state.”