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Lapid to float doomed no-confidence motion to replace government, oust Netanyahu

Opposition leader does not have the 61 votes needed to advance the measure, as several factions signal they won’t back the effort

Opposition leader Yair Lapid at the Knesset, as the 35th government of Israel is presented on May 17, 2020. (Knesset/Adina Veldman)
Opposition leader Yair Lapid at the Knesset, as the 35th government of Israel is presented on May 17, 2020. (Knesset/Adina Veldman)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid will next week bring a proposal to the Knesset to replace the government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which is highly unlikely to muster majority support.

In a statement, Lapid called for Blue and White’s leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, and for and Amir Peretz’s Labor party, to vote in favor of the no-confidence measure on Monday, which would bring about the dissolution of the coalition if it wins 61 votes.

He did not specify, however, who would lead an alternate government to the current one, a likely point of contention. The opposition’s right-wing Yamina party said it would not back the measure.

“If Gantz and Ashkenazi decide to support it, on the very same night (yes, the very same night!) Benjamin Netanyahu will leave [his home on] Balfour [Street],” Lapid wrote on Facebook.

Benny Gantz, head of Blue and White party, and MK Gabi Ashkenazi at an election campaign event on February 12, 2020 (Gili Yaari / Flash90)

“The noise will stop, the distress will disappear. The new government will be sworn in at the President’s Residence and start working. It will deal only with two things: Health and the economy. It will be limited in time — 18-24 months. We will suggest that all the parties join it. It will be substantive and effective. It could be formed in a week,” he added.

Gantz and Ashkenazi are both former partners of Lapid who broke ranks with the centrist list to join Netanyahu’s government. The Labor party has also joined the ruling coalition despite campaign pledges against doing so.

Contrary to the picture painted by Lapid, support from Blue and White and Labor would not be enough, as they would not have enough seats for a Knesset majority. In fact, no alternative coalition is likely without the support of such diametrically opposed parties as Yamina and Meretz, or the Arab Joint List and hard-right Yisrael Beytenu.

“There is no such thing, for two reasons: We won’t join a government supported by the Joint List, so it’s rubbish, spin,” Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked told the Ynet news site. “Secondly, Blue and White, as I said, is clinging to its seats.”

Protesters block a road as they demonstrate against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on September 30, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Without Yamina, the opposition has just 43 votes — 18 shy of a majority, requiring Blue and White (14 MKs), Labor (3) and Derech Eretz (2) to break with Netanyahu, an unlikely scenario despite persistent coalition tensions.

Derech Eretz Minister Yoaz Hendel, in a tweet, said the two-man party wouldn’t support the move, seemingly dooming the bid. “Stop wasting time with spin,” he wrote. “There are only two options, a stable government with a budget for 2021 or elections.”

During the three consecutive rounds of elections that began in April 2019, Blue and White campaigned on replacing Netanyahu, who faces charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The prime minister denies wrongdoing and claims, without evidence, that the indictments are an effort by political rivals, the media, law enforcement and prosecutors to remove him from office.

After the most recent elections in March, Blue and White dropped its opposition to sitting in a government led by Netanyahu, citing the health and economic crises generated by the pandemic.

Since the new government was formed, however, it has been riven by squabbling between Likud and Blue and White, and the dissolution of the Knesset was only narrowly avoided in August, when legislation delaying the passage of the state budget until late December was passed at the last minute.

Earlier this week, Blue and White MK Miki Haimovich said there was a growing group within the party that favors ending its partnership with Netanyahu’s Likud. But the party distanced itself from her comments several hours later.

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