Lapid, Bennett said hoping to tell Rivlin Tuesday they can form government

TV report says the Yesh Atid, Yamina leaders are aiming to swear in their emerging coalition on June 9, despite hurdles

Jewish Home's Naftali Bennett seen with Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid, after the Draft law passed unanimously in the Knesset, March 12, 2014. (Flash90)
Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid in the Knesset, March 12, 2014. (Flash90/File)

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett are optimistic about their prospects for forming a power-sharing government that will replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as premier, according to a television report Monday, though several potential roadblocks appeared to emerge on their route to securing a ruling majority.

The two hope to inform President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday that they are able to form a government, with the aim of having it sworn next week on June 9, Channel 12 reported. Lapid, who is currently tasked with forming a government, has until Wednesday night to tell Rivlin he can do so.

The parties were earlier reported to have made “significant progress” following overnight coalition talks, after Bennett’s announcement Sunday that he will seek to form a government with Netanyahu’s political opponents. Lapid predicted during a faction meeting that Netanyahu is on the verge of being ousted, but acknowledged that “obstacles” remain.

One such possible hurdle was Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked’s demand that she be appointed to the Judicial Appointments Committee, getting the spot slated for Labor chief Merav Michaeli.

Shaked, a former justice minister, was quoted by the Kan public broadcaster as telling Yamina activists that if the demand is not met, “there won’t be a government.”

The move was coordinated with Bennett, according to Channel 13 news.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli speaks during a Knesset faction meeting on May 24, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

There was no immediate response from Michaeli, but reports indicated the matter was solvable. She earlier said during a Labor faction meeting that the center-left party “remains completely committed to making every effort so this will happen,” referring to the establishment of a government.

The centrist Blue and White party is also eyeing Michaeli’s seat on the committee, Channel 12 reported.

In an interview with the network, Yamina MK Matan Kahana refused to comment directly on Shaked’s demand, but said that the panel was very important to the party.

He said he was “certain” that Shaked, who has not spoken publicly since Bennett’s declaration, supports the Yamina leader. Kahana stressed the party would join the government with Lapid, saying Yamina tried to honor its campaign promises, but came to the realization that there was no chance of forming a right-wing government.

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at the Knesset on May 26, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Along with Shaked’s demand, New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar was calling for the coalition agreement to include a clause on the attorney general’s job being split into two positions, according to Channel 13. He was also reportedly seeking to anchor continued West Bank settlement construction in law. Both positions are likely to be opposed by the more dovish factions in the prospective coalition.

Meanwhile, Channel 12 said Bennett has told the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties — which are part of Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc — that the new government will look out for their interests. It also reported the Haredi factions were concerned that Labor MK Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi, would be appointed Diaspora minister.

If Yamina and the “change bloc” of anti-Netanyahu parties resolve their points of contention, they will need the support of the Islamist Ra’am and/or part of the Joint List of three majority Arab parties.

Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra’am party, leads a faction meeting in the Knesset on April 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Shaked met Monday with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, who the Haaretz daily said demanded that one of his party’s lawmakers be appointed deputy interior minister. Shaked, who reports have indicated will be interior minister if the government if formed, was said to express fierce opposition to the demand.

The meeting with Abbas came as Shaked and Bennett come under heavy pressure from Netanyahu and his right-wing religious bloc to scrap plans for a government with the prime minister’s political opponents,.

Under the emerging rotation deal between Yamina and Yesh Atid, Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years before handing the reins to Lapid. Joining the coalition will be a mix of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties that refuse to join a government led by Netanyahu, who is on trial in three criminal cases.

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