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Likud files no-confidence motion against ‘government established on lies’

Vote against PM Naftali Bennett’s new coalition to be held Monday, but is unlikely to muster the required 61 votes to pass and topple the nascent coalition

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Likud MK Miki Zohar at a meeting of opposition parties in Netanyahu's right wing-religious bloc, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Likud MK Miki Zohar at a meeting of opposition parties in Netanyahu's right wing-religious bloc, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A lawmaker in opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on Wednesday submitted a no-confidence motion against the new government, three days after the long-serving former premier was replaced by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

A copy of the bill submitted by Likud MK Miki Zohar charged that the new Bennett-led government “was established on lies and defrauding the public and has no public mandate.”

The motion, which will offer an alternate coalition in lieu of the new government, will likely be voted on during Monday’s Knesset plenum session. It would require 61 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers to back it, however, and Likud does not appear to have such support.

Zohar said he filed the measure “in the name of the opposition factions.”

The opposition includes the parties in Netanyahu’s right-wing-religious bloc — which is made up of Likud, the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, and far-right Religious Zionism party — and the Joint List, the predominantly Arab political alliance, which was not included in a meeting of the other opposition factions on Monday.

At that meeting — which came shortly after Netanyahu held a brief handover with Bennett, but skipped the formal public transition ceremony — the Likud leader said he would “rescue Israel” from his right-wing rival, vowing to swiftly bring down the new government.

Introducing Netanyahu on Monday, Zohar referred to the former premier as “prime minister.” When corrected, Zohar said, “For me, you’ll always be prime minister.”

Citing a Likud source, the Ynet news site reported Wednesday that continued public references to Netanyahu as prime minister were deliberate.

“This is the outcome of a deliberate intent to undermine Bennett’s legitimacy and to leave in the public consciousness that Netanyahu is the prime minister,” the source was quoted as saying.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 16, 2021. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Netanyahu — Israel’s longest-serving leader, who was replaced by Bennett after 12 consecutive years in office — has repeatedly denounced the new government as the product of “fraud,” noting the new prime minister’s pre-election pledge not to form a government with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Bennett formally agreed to partner with Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, the Islamist Ra’am party, and other anti-Netanyahu factions, in order to put together a ruling coalition, after Netanyahu again failed to assemble a right-wing majority after general elections in March, the fourth in two years.

The new government won Monday’s confidence vote with the slimmest of margins — 60 MKs in favor, 59 opposing, with an abstention from a Ra’am MK — and is backed by a coalition of parties with widely divergent views.

Underscoring the coalition’s narrow majority, the Knesset Arrangements Committee ended a meeting Wednesday without voting on a proposal to restrict unification of Palestinian families divided between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

According to Channel 12 news, Ra’am opposed the measure and Netanyahu’s bloc refused to vote in favor despite previously backing such restrictions.

New Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) talks with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas during a special Knesset session to vote on the new government, on June 13, 2021. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

Zohar, who is Likud’s Knesset faction chief, tweeted that “we will agree to help [the coalition parties] if they agree to advance for us the law regulating young settlement in Judea and Samaria,” referring to a proposal to legalize illegal outposts in the West Bank.

The coalition’s right-wing parties — Yamina, New Hope and Yisrael Beytenu — all voted last month to fast-track the so-called outpost legalization law, which would formally allow 70 outposts beyond the Green Line to be connected to the state’s electricity and water supplies.

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