1st coalition hurdle: Lapid pushes to replace Knesset Speaker, Yemina MK opposes

The eight parties from across Israel’s political spectrum are already stuck on issues before a new coalition government can take office.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Opposition Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid announced late Wednesday he had managed to form a new coalition government, but by Thursday morning serious cracks were already appearing between the eight disparate political parties hoping to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In order to block any delaying tactics by Netanyahu’s Likud party, Lapid moved to call a vote for a new Knesset speaker, given that the current speaker of the house, the Likud’s Yariv Levin, could delay the vote approving the new coalition until at least June 14 in a bid to have it fall apart even before it is sworn in. Should that happen, it could force new elections in the fall.

Lapid is pushing for Yesh Atid member Mickey Levy to replace Levin and submitted 61 signatures to Levin, a majority number of the 120 member-Knesset needed to force a vote. However, Knesset member Nir Orbach from Bennett’s Yemina party withdrew his support, leaving Lapid one vote shy.

Orbach’s refusal is another step in the drama that has held the country captive since the inconclusive national election in March, in which neither the right or left emerged victorious.

Lapid’s proposed government of strange bedfellows ranges from right wing to left wing to an Islamist religious party, which all appear to have not much in common other than their desire to get rid of Netanyahu, who has led Israel for the past 12 years.

The center-left Lapid convinced right-wing Yemina party leader Naftali Bennett to join a a multi-party coalition, with Lapid deferring to let Bennett serve as prime minister first before replacing him after two years.

To forge his coalition, Lapid had to overcome the objections by some members of both Yemina and the right-wing New Hope party, led by Likud deserter Gideon Saar, who are wary of joining a government that has the support of the Islamist United Arab List (Ra’am) party, which objects to Israel being defined as “Jewish state.”

Orbach appears to be the current weak link after fellow Yemina caucus member Amichai Chikli came out strongly against the coalition. Bennett met with Orbach Wednesday evening and apparently failed to convince him.

Orbach’s refusal means that Lapid and Bennett may be forced to turn to one or more of the six members of the Joint Arab List, who are currently opposed to supporting the coalition.

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In an interview on Israel Army Radio, Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas called on Joint List members to vote in favor of the new government, but List member Osama Saadi said the party would have to meet first to decide.

“For now, we will not sign, until we convene and make a decision of the entire faction. It is true that we want to overthrow the Netanyahu regime and we have always been in favor of replacing the Speaker of the Knesset,” Saadi said.

If Lapid and Bennett manage to overcome all the hurdles and get their government sworn in, it remains to be seen if the eight different parties will manage to overcome their ideological differences and compromise on future legislation.

Left-wing Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz told Army Radio that despite the coalition agreement that puts a hold on any new LGBT initiatives, his party intends to push through new legislation. His comments were rejected by Ra’am member Walid Taha, who said his religious party “will not support anyone forcing on us values that our community does not believe in.”

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