S.The morning after the big deal, Naftali Bennett had his hands full keeping his small faction together. The leader of the right-wing Jamina party could become Israel’s next prime minister, with barely more than five percent of the vote and in association with seven other ideologically widely divergent parties from the country’s right-wing, centrist, left-liberal and even Islamist camp. The allies have come together for the sole purpose of replacing the incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ending the two-year government crisis with permanent elections and no budget. That remains complicated.
The attorney general directed a special unit of domestic intelligence to protect Bennett and his private home in Raanana. Not only because Bennett could soon become head of government, but because the threats against him and other members of the coalition-designate have now reached dangerous proportions. In particular, MPs from the Jamina who are close to the settlers are insulted as traitors, and there is even talk of death threats. Bennett had promised in the election campaign not to form a coalition with the “left” central politician Jair Lapid, which Netanyahu is now accusing him of. Netanyahu’s 29-year-old son Jair called Bennett “scum”.
The parliamentary vote on the new government is running out
Lapid has so far led the opposition and of all parties in the new coalition has by far the largest number of seats in the 120-member Knesset with 17. He made Bennett attractive to join the coalition by offering him prime ministerial office for the first two years. Meanwhile, Lapid is supposed to become foreign minister before he becomes head of government himself according to the rotation agreement – if the government lasts that long and if it comes into being at all.
Because the agreement shortly before the end of the given deadline on Wednesday at midnight was only the first step towards a new government. A parliamentary vote is still required for this, and it will be close. Even before Bennett signed the contract, a Jamina MP had left the parliamentary group, leaving the eight-party alliance with a very slim majority of 61 seats.
In addition, there is still disagreement about when the decisive vote will be scheduled. The Knesset president can decide on the timing within a set period, and this post is held by a confidante of Netanyahu. When Lapid’s party Yesh Atid submitted the signatures of 61 MPs to get a new election of the Knesset president next Monday, another MP from Bennett’s party withdrew his signature. The law requires the election of a Knesset president before a new government can be voted on. According to reports, the election of the Knesset president may be formally delayed until June 14th. Enough time for Bennett, on the one hand, to organize majorities in his own party, and on the other hand, time for Netanyahu to find more apostates.
There has never been an Arab party in government in Israel’s history
An already historic photo of the coalition negotiations could help Netanyahu, at least the incumbent prime minister is eager to spread it. It shows the key three protagonists of the possible new government in front of the coalition paper: Lapid, the centrists, Bennett, who advocates the annexation of occupied territories in the West Bank, and the leader of the small Arab Raam party, Mansour Abbas.
Broad coalitions have always shaped the parliamentary system in Israel. But the entry into government of an Arab party, especially one from the Islamist spectrum, has never occurred in history. “The decision was difficult,” said Mansour Abbas at Ramat Gan’s conference hotel. “There were some disagreements.” But they wanted a government that “serves all the citizens of the country, including the Arab citizens”. Raam should not get a ministerial post, but seats in important committees and concessions in distribution matters. Negotiations are ongoing on the details of the coalition agreement.