Glimmers of possible dissent within the diverse so-called “change bloc” appeared on Sunday morning as Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar, angered by his offered role in the government, told party head Avigdor Liberman that he would no longer vote along party lines after the coalition was installed.
The new government’s swearing-in on Sunday hangs on a single vote, with 61 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers expected to back the fragile political alliance, that, once confirmed, will unseat Israel’s longest-serving premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, after 12 consecutive years in power.
Despite his anger, Avidar, a prominent figure at the weekly anti-Netanyahu protests, won’t vote against the establishment of the new government and torpedo the bid.
However, the lawmaker intends to vote independently in the future instead of alongside his party as part of the coalition.
Avidar is unhappy that he was not given either the agriculture or the Negev and Galilee development ministries. Instead, Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman offered Avidar the chance to be a minister within the Finance Ministry, which Liberman will head, but the proposal was rejected. Instead, that role will be filled by Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Kushnir.
Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker Oded Forer will serve as Agriculture Minister and also minister for the Negev and Galilee in the government which has already come under fire for its bloated nature and large number of ministers.
The new cabinet will have 28 ministers and six deputy ministers, making it the third-largest in Israel’s history, second only to the outgoing government (35 cabinet ministers) and Netanyahu’s 2009-2013 government (30 ministers).
The prospective 36th government of Israel is composed of strange bedfellows of right-wing, left-wing, centrist, and Islamist parties that came together to oust Netanyahu and end two years of political deadlock.
Barring any last-minute surprises, right-wing Yamina leader Naftali Bennett will become prime minister, to be replaced two years later by centrist Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid, while Netanyahu — who has led the country overall for 15 years — will become the leader of the opposition. The new government would also be the first in Israel’s history in which an Arab Israeli party has played such a key role, with the Islamist Ra’am set to be a partner. The coalition deals between the parties were finalized on Friday.
The intended Lapid-Bennett government is backed by eight of the 13 parties that won seats in the March 23 election, for an expected total of 61 votes in the 120-member Knesset: 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). The parties slated to be shunted to the opposition are: Netanyahu’s Likud, the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, the far-right Religious Zionism, and the predominantly-Arab Joint List.
Without Avidar, Yisrael Beytenu would only have six of its seven lawmakers backing the government which could leave the coalition without a majority in the Knesset in any future votes he decides to oppose.
Negotiations over the coalition already prompted Yamina party MK Amichai Chikli to break ranks and declare he will vote against the prospective coalition as he opposed the inclusion of Ra’am, an Arab Islamist party.
There is wide skepticism over the stability of the incoming government.
According to a Channel 12 News survey broadcast Saturday night, 43 percent of respondents said the so-called “change government” will only last for a short time before dissolving, while 30% believe it will survive for a longer period. Another 11% think the government will make it through 4 years.
Israel has held four national elections since April 2019, which yielded just one government: a short-lived power-sharing coalition of Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White.