At least four of the six MKs in the majority-Arab Joint List party will vote against the formation of a unity government led by Yamina chair Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, even though it would oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Communist Hadash and Maki factions issued a joint statement Tuesday saying their 3 MKs — Ayman Odeh, Ofer Cassif and Aida Touma-Sliman — would vote against the unity government, which was still in the process of being finalized. The trio joins Sami Abou Shahadeh from the secular ultranationalist Balad faction who announced last week that he would not back the emerging Bennett-Lapid coalition.
“We are not [interested in] dealing with changing characters, but [in] changing policies, eradicating racism, and resisting the occupation,” Hadash and Maki said, explaining the decision and arguing, as Balad did, that Bennett’s beliefs were no less right-wing than Netanyahu’s.
The Tuesday announcement leaves Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al party and its two MKs as the only remaining faction in the Joint List still undeclared how it plans to vote if the change-bloc coalition is brought before the Knesset next week.
Tibi in recent weeks has indicated a willingness to abstain in such a vote, at the very least, particularly if his party’s two MKs are necessary to secure a majority needed to replace Netanyahu.
However, none of the Joint List’s six MKs — five of whom recommended Lapid be tapped with forming the next government last month — will be needed to swear in the new government if no new MKs from the emerging coalition’s eight parties decide to break ranks.
This includes the Islamist Ra’am party, whose chairman Mansour Abbas told reporters Tuesday that he was optimistic about his majority-Arab faction either being part of the coalition or supporting the government from the outside.
The Kan public broadcaster said that Ra’am had several demands in exchange for its cooperation, including the freezing of the Kaminitz Law penalizing illegal building — which opponents say overly-targets the Arab-sector, — chairmanship of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, a NIS 50 billion 10-year plan for Arab community funding and state legalization of 14 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev.
But disagreements reportedly remained, with Ra’am’s secretary-general Ibrahim Hijazi called urgently to the Kfar Maccabiah hotel in Ramat Gan where party heads were meeting Tuesday evening.
According to Kan, the disagreements pertaining to Ra’am center on Abbas’s demand for the Interior Ministry to cede extensive powers to local Arab Israeli municipal councils, a demand which Shaked, who is set to be interior minister, opposes.
Channel 13 reported that agreement had however been reached on Ra’am’s demand to freeze an urban planning law which is seen as unfairly targeting the Arab Israeli community, and not to include any language relating the LGBTQ community in the government’s key principles.
With a number of disagreements remaining between the various parties set to make up the so-called change coalition, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has until midnight Wednesday to inform the president that he has managed to form a government. Negotiating teams were set to meet throughout the night to finalize the deal by the deadline.
Lapid was looking to announce by 11 a.m. Wednesday morning that he can form a government composed of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties, Channel 12 reported Tuesday evening, with the aim of having Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) schedule a vote to swear in the new coalition on June 9.
However, the report said that Netanyahu’s Likud party was looking into whether Levin can push off a vote of confidence in the prospective government, though it also cited a ruling by former Supreme Court chief justice Miriam Naor that the vote must be held within a week.
The delay comes after a day of intensive negotiations between the leaders of the centrist Yesh Atid and Blue and White, right-wing Yamina, New Hope, Yisrael Beytenu parties, the left-wing Meretz, center-left Labor and the Ra’am.
The parties hope to overcome their major ideological gaps, ending Israel’s protracted political deadlock and ousting Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader, from the halls of power.
If Lapid fails, the mandate goes to the Knesset for 21 days. If no lawmaker is able to secure a ruling majority by the end of that period, the Knesset will disperse and a fifth round of elections since April 2019 will be called.
The Yesh Atid chair, while tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a government, has agreed to a rotating premiership with Yamina head Naftali Bennett serving first as prime minister.