Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party lost an important vote on Monday over control of a parliamentary committee, as Netanyahu seeks to build a right-leaning majority coalition government to avoid a fifth snap election in two years.
Voting Monday over who will join the Arrangements Committee, a group which controls the Knesset’s legislative agenda in the absence of the formulation of a new government, Netanyahu’s Likud party lost to rival centrist party Yesh Atid, headed by Knesset opposition leader Yair Lapid.
Locked in a political stalemate since the fourth parliamentary election in four years on March 23, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin endorsed Netanyahu to form a new government within 28 days, with a possible 14 day extension.
Meeting with representatives of the 13 parties which won seats in the fourth consecutive majority-less Knesset, Rivlin was unable to garner a consensus among the parties as to who should form a new coalition government.
“Netanyahu’s Likud party scored 30 seats in the most recent election, which together with its right-wing and ultra-Orthodox partners holds 52 seats. That means the prime minister oversees the bloc that won the most seats earlier last month, though he still falls short of the 61 seats needed to form a majority in the 120-seat Knesset,” wrote The Hill.
Although holding a lack of seats for a majority, President Rivlin tapped Netanyahu as the most likely candidate to form a new majority government despite critics pointing towards Netanyahu’s unlikely chances.
“Securing the support of nine more lawmakers will not be easy. Netanyahu will use his formidable powers of persuasion, coupled with generous offers of powerful government ministries, to court his potential partners,” wrote ABC News.
While Netanyahu could use the support of the small Islamic party, Ra’am, members of the conservative Religious Zionism party belonging to Likud’s coalition have expressed considerable opposition to working with the Islamic party.
Netanyahu will also likely need the support of Yamina, a religious nationalist party led by former ally Naftali Bennett who has demonstrated an openness towards working with Islamist parties, reported ABC News.
Stating his intention to refrain from Ra’am’s support in a move to stand with Conservative allies such as the Religious Zionists, Ra’am’s leader has stated he will not support Netanyahu’s push for new premier direct elections.
Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid “worked with the Islamist faction to torpedo the Likud party’s bid to head the Arrangements Committee, which controls the Knesset (Israel Parliament) before a new government is established,” wrote i24 News. Lapid also attacked Netanyahu for his push for direct premier elections in effort to maintain his position as PM.
“Netanyahu, the State of Israel doesn’t need another election,” the Yesh Atid party posted in a tweet. “This isn’t a direct election, it is a bypass aimed at buying time at the public’s expense.”
Forming an emergency coalition government in March of 2020 to deal the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen a large Israeli success, Likud leader Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz entered in a power-sharing deal which saw Netanyahu remain as prime minister and Benny Gantz take up the role as the “alternate prime minister” and officially serve as both the Defense and Foreign Minister.
Under trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust allegations, critics have called the tapping of Netanyahu to form a new government a means for Netanyahu to interfere in his current court predicament. Despite such criticisms, there is no Israeli law preventing a prime minister under indictment from continuing his seat in office.
“Opponents of Mr. Netanyahu, including Merav Michaeli, the leader of the Labor Party, said they planned to introduce bills aimed at barring a candidate under indictment from becoming prime minister or president, and at limiting a prime minister’s terms in office, moves that could stymie the prime minister’s options should the current stalemate lead to a fifth election,” wrote the New York Times.
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