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Sunday Knesset session to swear in new coalition, oust Netanyahu: How it unfolds

Bennett and Lapid will present composition of the 36th government, Netanyahu will speak as incoming opposition leader, a new Speaker will be chosen, and then MKs will vote on gov’t

Party leaders in the emerging coalition: This combination of pictures created on June 2, 2021 shows (Top (L to R) Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, (bottom L to R) Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas, and Labour leader Merav Michaeli. (Photos by AFP)
Party leaders in the emerging coalition: This combination of pictures created on June 2, 2021 shows (Top (L to R) Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, (bottom L to R) Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas, and Labour leader Merav Michaeli. (Photos by AFP)

Sunday will see the Knesset vote on establishing the 36th government of Israel, an eight-party coalition that will see prime minister-designate Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party rotate the premiership with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

If confirmed, the unlikely alliance of right-wing, left-wing, centrist and Islamist parties will remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power after 12 years, to be replaced by Bennett, and, two years later, Lapid.

The Knesset Arrangements Committee on Wednesday approved the session of parliament to install the coalition, with proceedings set to begin Sunday at 4 p.m.

Prime Minister-designate Bennett will take to the podium and present the coalition’s designated prime minister, alternate prime minister, the guiding principles of their government, its composition, its ministers, the dates of any planned changes in roles, and the affinity of each of the ministers to either Bennett’s right-wing bloc or Lapid’s center-left bloc in the power-sharing government.

The affiliations determine who can fire each bloc’s member ministers. Bennett’s bloc includes his own Yamina party and that of New Hope, lead by MK Gideon Sa’ar. All other parties are in Lapid’s bloc.

Lapid is then to address the plenum. The prospective government leaders will have a limited time to present all of the information.

The leader of the largest party that is not part of the incoming government — Netanyahu, whose Likud has 30 seats — will then have the right to speak as well.

Netanyahu will utilize that right, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday.

(It said Netanyahu’s office had no answer at this stage to the question of whether Netanyahu, who is still battling to woo defectors to thwart the Bennett-Lapid government, would attend the subsequent, traditional ceremony handing over authority to incoming prime minister Bennett at the Prime Minister’s Office. Channel 12 also said Bennett has not asked to meet with Netanyahu for a one-on-one briefing as power is transferred, nor had Netanyahu offered such a briefing, and nor has there been any informal coordination between them over the changeover.)

After the leaders’ speeches at Sunday’s Knesset session, all other parties in the Knesset will have nine minutes each for a representative to speak from the plenum. With Netanyahu set to be ousted after more than 12 years in power, as well as a stint as premier between 1996-1999, the speeches are likely to be heated. Likud and its allies accuse Bennett and Sa’ar, who both lead right-wing parties, of switching sides to enable the incoming government, which they have repeatedly denigrated as “dangerous” and “leftist.”

The next order of business will be to vote on a replacement for Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud, who will join his party in the opposition. He is expected to be replaced by Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy.

Levy will then oversee the Knesset vote on establishing the government, which is expected to be approved with the wafer-thin majority of 61 MKs out of the Knesset’s total of 120.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony honoring medical workers and hospitals for their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, in Jerusalem on June 6, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The prime minister, his alternate and their ministers will then declare their allegiance to their roles, committing to “maintain allegiance to the State of Israel and its laws, to faithfully fulfill my role as prime minister/a member of the government and to uphold Knesset resolutions.”

Following the session, members of the newly installed government will head to the President’s Residence for the traditional group photograph of ministers with outgoing President Reuven Rivlin, who will end his seven-year term on July 9.

Though the emerging coalition agreement has not yet been finally signed amid last-minute negotiations, the expectation is that the member parties will ink the deal shortly. The prospective coalition party heads were said to be in agreement that the matter must be finalized by Thursday night as the coalition agreements must be made public by Friday.

The new government will include 28 ministers and six deputy ministers, making it one of the largest-ever cabinets, though smaller than the previous government. It will be the first Israeli government in which an Arab party, Ra’am, has been a coalition member vital to the government’s majority.

In terms of top ministerial positions, under the emerging coalition agreements, Lapid will serve as foreign minister in the first two years of the government, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz will remain defense minister, and the Treasury will be held by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman. New Hope leader Sa’ar will be justice minister, while Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked will be interior minister. Labor’s Merav Michaeli received the transportation portfolio and her fellow party member Omer Barlev will be public security minister. Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz will be appointed health minister, while fellow party member Tamar Zandberg will be environmental protection minister.

Tal Schneider contributed to this report.

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