Knesset speaker may hold vote on new government as soon as Wednesday

Likud’s Yariv Levin said considering convening the Knesset on June 9 if he thinks that date will provide a better shot at thwarting the ‘change government’

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin at the swearing-in of the 24th Knesset on April 6, 2021. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Flash90)
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin at the swearing-in of the 24th Knesset on April 6, 2021. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin is weighing scheduling the vote to approve the new “change government” later this week, sources close to him said Sunday.

The sources said Levin will set the vote for either this Wednesday, June 9, or next Monday, June 14.

Levin will only consider picking the earlier date if there appears to be a reasonable shot at preventing the formation of the potential government, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The speaker, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is set to inform the Knesset on Monday, June 7, of Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid’s announcement last week that he and his allies have assembled a majority coalition. By law, Levin has up to a week to schedule the confidence vote in the new government, and has been widely expected to use that full period in order to give Netanyahu and his political partners maximal time to try to thwart it.

The key reason Levin is eyeing Wednesday is in case Yamina MK Nir Orbach resigns rather voting to oppose or back the government, Channel 12 news reported, as his resignation would not take effect for 48 hours. However, even lacking his vote, there would still be 60 MKs backing the coalition versus at most 59 lawmakers who are opposed, allowing the new government to be sworn in.

Yamina MK Nir Orbach. (Flash90/File)

A pair of Yamina MKs predicted Sunday that Orbach will ultimately vote to back the proposed government — which will see the party’s leader Naftali Bennett and Lapid take turns as prime minister — or resign, but not actively oppose it.

“Nir Orbach in my opinion is going to vote in favor of this government and if not, then in a worst-case scenario he’ll resign,” Yamina MK Abir Kara told Kan public radio.

Rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli said he did not believe Orbach would follow him in choosing to buck Bennett by voting to oppose the government.

“I spoke with Orbach during the week. I believe he will resign or vote in favor. Unfortunately, he won’t thwart the government,” Chikli said in an interview with Army Radio.

Meanwhile, Likud MK Miki Zohar said there would a peaceful and orderly transition of power.

“Everything will be done in accordance with the law,” Zohar told Army Radio.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK Miki Zohar (R) at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 20, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Later Sunday, the heads of the eight parties in the change bloc will meet for the first time since the coalition was declared last week. Lapid’s Yesh Atid party said the meeting would be at 5 p.m.

Bennett, the prime minister-designate, is expected during the meeting to announce that Yamina MKs — with the exception of 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 prospective government is that it indeed will be sworn in, Channel 12 said, with a wafer-thin majority.

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).

A photo montage shows the leaders of parties in the prospective “change government” that Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid announced he can form on June 2, 2021. (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.

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 September 2023, with Lapid to succeed him for the subsequent two years.

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

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