Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said Saturday that should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not appoint a health minister, his party would file a petition with the Supreme Court.
Under a coalition agreement with the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism, MK Yaakov Litzman will be appointed deputy health minister (party members do not assume top ministerial positions on ideological-religious grounds). UTJ’s entrance into the next government was conditioned on rolling back a number of reforms passed in the last government, many of which were championed by Yesh Atid.
Lapid said he would call on Netanyahu Saturday night to appoint a health minister and should he not do so and only appoint Litzman as the deputy, Yesh Atid would turn to the Supreme Court.
“It cannot be that the Health Ministry will be headed by a man who refuses to swear allegiance to the State of Israel and who has no qualifications to manage this important portfolio,” Lapid said at a cultural event in Kfar Saba Saturday.
“We intend to turn to the Supreme Court against the appointment of ministers who don’t swear allegiance to Israel and to its laws. Israeli citizens deserve full-time ministers,” he said.
The Health Ministry was held by Yesh Atid’s Yael German in the previous government.
On Friday night, Lapid led a Tel Aviv rally against Netanyahu to protest the premier’s intention of walking back many of Lapid’s signature achievements during his time in government.
At the rally, held under the title “Israel is going backwards – Bibi cannot sell our country,” the former finance minister accused Netanyahu of turning his back on reforms introduced during the last government in order to secure a coalition with Shas and UTJ.
Netanyahu’s Likud and UTJ signed a coalition deal on Wednesday. Likud and Kulanu have also signed a coalition agreement. Netanyahu has until May 7 to complete his coalition, and is said to be close to finalizing terms with Shas. Yisrael Beytenu and Jewish Home are proving harder to win over, and the prime minister was reported Friday to be maintaining contacts with Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union in a possible pressure tactic.
“Netanyahu is betraying the values of the nationalist camp and carrying out a liquidation sale of all that is important to the State of Israel,” Lapid said, according to Ynet news. “Yesh Atid will not be silent — we will not allow the elimination of all that matters in Israeli society; we will take to the streets, turn to the courts and fight in the Knesset. They cannot sell the country.”
In his dealings with the ultra-Orthodox parties to form a new government, Netanyahu reportedly agreed to a series of reforms that would negate many of Lapid’s accomplishments and likely cost the state billions more every year.
Under the deal with UTJ, several major reforms drafted by the previous government, aimed at integrating the ultra-Orthodox community into Israeli society, will apparently be frozen, including aspects of legislation to phase Haredim into mandatory military or national service.
UTJ has also secured assurances from Netanyahu that the next government will cancel cutbacks to child allowances to families based on the number of children they have and their annual family income, as well as cuts to the state’s ultra-Orthodox educational system.
When Lapid entered coalition talks two years ago, the Yesh Atid chairman conditioned the future of funding for ultra-Orthodox schools on the introduction of compulsory non-religious classes such as maths and English. This condition will now be withdrawn.
Lapid has said that his reforms were an attempt to better assimilate the ultra-Orthodox into Israeli society, although the community has accused Yesh Atid of infringing upon their way of life, weakening the Jewish character of the state and hurting one of the poorest segments of Israeli society.
Tensions between Lapid and Shas chairman Aryeh Deri have been high, with the Yesh Atid leader calling on Netanayhu not to appoint Deri as interior minister due to his criminal record.