Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin announced Friday that he would bring Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid’s statement that he can form a government to the Knesset on Monday, setting in motion the process to hold a vote of confidence in the new government.
“After the announcement from the Speaker of the Knesset to the plenum, and in accordance with the timeframe laid out in the Basic Law of Government, the Speaker will set a date for the debate and vote on establishing the government,” Levin said in a statement.
The law holds that the vote must come within seven days of the announcement, leaving Monday June 14 as the most likely date for the vote.
The announcement comes as members of the nascent Lapid-lead coalition worked to keep all their members in line amid massive efforts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to scuttle the shaky, narrow alliance that seeks to oust him.
With only a 61-59 majority in the 120-seat Knesset, a change of heart from any MK in the new coalition could doom its chances of getting approved in parliament.
It also comes after a failed effort on Thursday to replace Levin in a bid to speed up the process of getting the government confirmed.
On Thursday morning, the change bloc parties submitted 61 signatures, demanding a vote on a new Knesset speaker early next week. The move was intended to prevent Levin from stalling on a vote of confidence in the new government and to ensure that it happened next week, rather than the week after that.
However, Yamina MK Nir Orbach withdrew his support. The Arab majority Joint List, which is not part of the coalition, then moved to prop up the effort by adding its own six votes to the bid.
But bloc leaders Yamina and Yesh Atid quickly distanced themselves from the Joint List’s backing, saying it had not been sought. Though Islamist party Ra’am is part of the new coalition, the Joint List is seen as less palatable to many right-wing members of the change bloc.
Yamina then said it would only vote to replace the Knesset speaker once the government itself was approved.
As Knesset speaker, Levin can legally delay a vote on the new government for a week, giving Netanyahu’s Likud party more time to try to peel away rebels from the right-wing factions of the unity coalition.
Yamin chief Naftali Bennett, who is set to serve as prime minister first in a rotation deal with Lapid, on Friday hosted members of his party in his Ra’anana home amid efforts to consolidate the support of all the party’s MKs for the emerging “change coalition” with the center and left.
Also Friday, Bennett and Lapid called a Sunday evening meeting that will see the heads of all eight factions of the emerging “change government” meet together for the first time.
After the Yamina meeting ended, Yamina MK Abir Kara said it went “great.” He expressed confidence that Bennett had managed to prevent any further potential defections from the party — including by Orbach, who is reportedly on the fence — and could even manage to bring rebel MK Amichai Chikli back into the fold. Chikli, who has vowed to oppose the proposed government, did not attend Friday’s meeting.
“Bennett managed to keep everyone around him. Maybe we can get Chikli. I think it would be better for him to come with us too because he is another strong right-wing finger that can give us more strength and weight and be on the side that makes an impact,” Kara said.
Fellow Yamina MK Matan Kahana told Channel 12 news later Friday: “The feeling [at the meeting] was that we are going, united, to something that is very important to the State of Israel and we greatly want it to work. I’m sorry that Chikli made the decision he did,” Kahana added. “But Naftali Bennett and the rest of us are determined to pull Israel out of this insane chaos of endless elections, of rifts and division.”
The Bennett-Lapid coalition numbers 61 MKs in the 120-member Knesset, meaning that a single defection could prevent it from winning the parliamentary vote of confidence in needs to take power: Yesh Atid (17 seats), Blue and White (8), Yisrael Beytenu (7), Labor (7), Yamina (6 of its 7 MKs), New Hope (6), Meretz (6) and Ra’am (4).
Channel 12 news reported Friday that Orbach will announce his intentions at the beginning of next week.
Yamina MK Idit Silman, perceived by Likud as a possible weak link, said Friday afternoon that she would be backing the new government.
The meeting came after protests were held outside the homes of Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked and Orbach, in a campaign said to be orchestrated by incumbent Netanyahu to sway them away from the “change government.”
Hundreds took part in rallies outside their homes on Thursday night, a day after Lapid officially declared that he could form a government. If formed, it would end the premier’s run of 12 consecutive years in office and relegate his Likud party and allied factions to the opposition.
On Friday, counter-protesters also showed up to support the new coalition — which will first be led by Bennett and then, from August 2023, by Lapid — with some holding up a banner reading: “Yes to a change government.”
Netanyahu’s Likud is also to meet Sunday. Netanyahu has urged all right-wingers in the “change coalition” to abandon it, and instead back him.
“We are of course fighting until the last moment,” Likud minister and close Netanyahu loyalist Tzachi Hanegbi said on Friday afternoon. “It’s not only about Netanyahu. We are a political camp with vast public support… If the government is sworn in, we’ll of course act, in opposition, according to all the well-known rules. [We’ll be] a fighting opposition. But until then, if there is a chance to prevent the establishment of a government based on votes that were stolen from the right, we of course will act to try to prevent it.”