Ex-PM promises broad national gov't after wretched coalition

Opposition cheers government’s end; Netanyahu: Likud will lead country again

Justice Minister Sa’ar raps MKs who caused coalition collapse, says Netanyahu must be stopped from returning to power; right-wing religious parties predict strong election showing

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hails the collapse of the Bennett-Lapid coalition, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hails the collapse of the Bennett-Lapid coalition, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition lawmakers celebrated Monday after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced their intention to dissolve the Knesset, triggering fresh elections.

Leaders of right-wing and religious opposition parties gathered in opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Knesset office in the evening for talks following the development.

Netanyahu, the former prime minister who leads the Likud party, said in a video posted to social media: “This is an evening of great news for millions of citizens.”

“After a year of a determined campaign by the opposition in the Knesset, with great suffering in the Israeli public, it is clear to everyone that the most wretched government in the history of the country has reached an end,” he said.

“My friends and I will form a broad national government led by Likud.”

In a later statement to the cameras, Netanyahu rejected Bennett’s claim that he had acted out of selflessness in forming and also dissolving the current government as a “charade” and “brainwashing.” Netanyahu claimed that “everyone is smiling” at the imminent fall of the government.

He said he was preparing for elections but did not rule out an alternative government in the current Knesset if additional right-wing MKs drop their “personal boycott” of him.

Likud MK Miri Regev wrote that Bennett and Lapid were like “bankrupt” businessmen. “Your story is over,” she tweeted. “The Israeli public has understood exactly who you are. Go home.”

Her fellow party member MK Miki Zohar wrote: “At last, this government will pass from the world.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, right, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

MK Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party tweeted that soon, “Jewish unity, Zionism and true nationalism will lead the country.” His fellow faction member, MK Itamar Ben Gvir said: “At last, this dangerous government is going home.

“We will establish a fully, fully right-wing government that will restore security to the streets,” he tweeted.

Leader of the opposition’s United Torah Judaism party MK Moshe Gafni tweeted a part of a traditional Jewish blessing to mark new beginnings, thanking God, “who granted us life and sustained us and brought us to this time.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, June 20, 2022. (Noam Moskowitz/ Knesset spokesperson’s office)

Shas party chairman, former MK Aryeh Deri who resigned from the Knesset in January as part of a tax offense plea deal, tweeted “The people of Israel lives!” an age-old Hebrew expression of national rejuvenation.

Bennett’s fragile mix of eight parties from the left, center, and right, along with Ra’am, an Islamist movement, had been on the ropes in recent weeks after losing its majority with the defection of MK Idit Silman from Bennett’s own party. It then suffered defeats in parliament, as some of the remaining members in the coalition either voted against government policy, abstained, or helped the opposition. Then last week, Yamina MK Nir Orbach also declared he would vote with the opposition in the Knesset.

Silman tweeted Monday: “I thank God for giving me the strength and the courage to do the right thing and to be a partner to the establishment of a right-wing, Jewish and nationalist government really soon.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar tweeted: “As I warned, the irresponsibility of certain MKs in the coalition brought the inevitable outcome.”

Sa’ar declared that the goal of the coming elections “is clear: preventing a return to power of Netanyahu and enslavement of the country to his personal interests.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 12, 2022, (Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/POOL)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Kan news: “It’s a pity that the country needs to be dragged into elections. We will continue to act as a temporary government.”

Gantz later tweeted that “elections and periods of instability are not a good thing, but we will meet them determined in the goal of putting the citizens of Israel before everything.”

Environmental Protection Minister MK Tamar Zandberg of Meretz took a more positive attitude, tweeting that “the experiment succeeded” — an apparent reference to the partnering of so many diverse parties, including Ra’am, in the government.

Health Minister and Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz, whose party member MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi was one of those who turned against the government, insisted that “this government succeed above and beyond.”

“This is a historic government that saved Israel’s democracy,” he tweeted.

Minister of Health and head of the left wing Meretz party Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset, on May 16, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Speaking to Kan, Horowitz defended his party’s lawmakers, noting that they’d never threatened to support a no-confidence vote against the government, and accused Yamina MKs of causing the collapse.

The announcement from Bennett and Lapid said that a vote to dissolve the Knesset will be held next week. If passed, then Lapid, who is also the foreign minister, will become prime minister under the rotation agreement between them. Lapid was due to take over as prime minister only in August 2023. The date of October 25 was reported as the likely date for a new election.

Recent polls have shown that Likud would be the largest party following elections, but would still struggle to form a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset, similar to the situation following four rounds of elections over the past three and a half years. Bennett’s coalition, which only ever had a slim majority, ousted Netanyahu after more than a decade in power.

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