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Bennett to inform party chiefs that 6 Yamina MKs will back coalition — report

Leaders of the eight factions in the so-called ‘change government’ to meet for the first time since coalition was announced

Yamina chair Naftali Bennett (C) and party members seen with supporters at a party event in Petah Tikva after election day, March 23, 2021. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)
Yamina chair Naftali Bennett (C) and party members seen with supporters at a party event in Petah Tikva after election day, March 23, 2021. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)

The leaders of the eight political parties in the so-called change bloc that have agreed to form a government ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were set to meet on Sunday for the first time since the prospective coalition was declared.

During the meeting, prime minister-designate Naftali Bennett is expected to announce that his fellow right-wing Yamina lawmakers — with the exception of rebel MK Amichai Chikli — will vote in favor of establishing the government, according to the Haaretz daily.

The would-be coalition appears increasingly likely to secure the necessary majority support in the Knesset, Israel’s two main news stations reported Friday night. The assessment among all members of the “change bloc,” led by Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, is that the coalition will indeed be sworn in, Channel 12 said, with a wafer-thin 61-59 majority.

Channel 12 said that the MK deemed potentially most problematic, Yamina’s Nir Orbach, on Friday told several people who are trying to persuade him to vote against the coalition: “Don’t place your expectations on me. Unless there is some dramatic change, I intend to enable the establishment of this government, either by actively backing it [in the Knesset vote] or by resigning from the Knesset.”

Yamina MK Nir Orbach arrives for a meeting with Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and fellow Yamina MKs, at Bennett’s home in Ra’anana, on June 4, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Were Orbach to resign, the Yamina lawmaker who would take his place is Shirley Pinto, who has said repeatedly that she strongly supports the planned government.

Orbach has yet to formally announce his decision.

A few hundred people protested outside Orbach’s Petah Tikva home on Saturday night, urging him to vote down the government. According to Channel 12, calls of ‘leftists are traitors’ were heard at the scene.

Party leaders in the emerging coalition: This combination of pictures created on June 2, 2021 shows (Top (L to R) Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, (bottom L to R) Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, and Labour leader Merav Michaeli. (Photos by AFP)

Another Yamina MK deemed a potential defector by Netanyahu’s Likud, Idit Silman, announced on Friday that she had taken a final decision to vote in favor of the so-called “change government.”

Yamina MK Idit Silman arrives for coalition talks, at the Maccabiah village in Ramat Gan on June 2, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Bennett-Lapid coalition numbers 61 MKs in the 120-member Knesset, meaning that a single defection could prevent it from winning the parliamentary vote of confidence in needs to take power: Yesh Atid (17 seats), Blue and White (8), Yisrael Beytenu (7), Labor (7), Yamina (6 of its 7 MKs), New Hope (6), Meretz (6) and Ra’am (4).

Since the confidence vote is only likely to be held on either June 9 or June 14, however, and since the coalition is heading to a 61-59 majority, whereby a single defection could doom it, the potential for the picture to change cannot be discounted, in part because the various coalition agreements have not been finalized, and especially given the potential for Israel’s fast-moving political and security reality to change within days, hours or even minutes.

Lapid announced to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday night that he and his allies had mustered a majority coalition. But the Knesset will only be formally notified to this effect on Monday, June 7. By law, the Knesset Speaker, Likud’s Yariv Levin, then has up to a week to schedule the confidence vote in the new government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on May 30, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu, who has held power for over 12 years, in addition to a three-year stint from 1996-1999, is urging right-wing members of the emerging coalition to bolt from it before it can be voted in. His ally, Likud minister Tzachi Hanegbi, said Friday that Likud would “fight to the end” to prevent it if possible.

The intended coalition brings together eight parties from across the political spectrum: The right-wing Yamina, New Hope and Yisrael Beytenu, the centrist Yesh Atid and Blue and White, the left-wing Labor and Meretz, and the conservative Islamic party Ra’am. Bennett is set to serve as prime minister until August 2023, with Lapid to succeed him for the subsequent two years.

The political developments have spurred increased threats against politicians, especially from the Yamina party, with Shin Bet security agency director Nadav Argaman on Saturday issuing a rare warning on Saturday about online incitement and the potential for political violence. Several politicians have received increased personal security.

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