Knesset to disband Monday; Lapid will take over as Prime Minister midweek

Israel’s political landscape is expected to change in the coming week, with the Knesset due to pass final legislation for its dispersal on Monday and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid becoming prime minister soon after.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Lapid announced last week their decision to dissolve the 24th Knesset after just a year in power due to their inability to sustain their tight and politically diverse coalition any longer. If all goes according to plan, Israel will be heading for its fifth national election in less than four years in the fall.

The Knesset on Wednesday approved a draft bill to dissolve itself and is expected to officially dissolve this week after passing two committee reviews and three more votes. Lapid will take over as interim prime minister in elections in the fall, according to the coalition agreement.

The Knesset can complete the legislative process to disperse as early as Monday. Channel 12 reported that Monday’s legislative session will continue as late as necessary to pass the final readings of the Dispersal Act, with the coalition and opposition keen to pass it quickly.

Although the Knesset passed the first of four votes on Wednesday to voluntarily dissolve itself, rebel MK Yamina Nir Orbach delayed the process until Monday to give the opposition a chance to form their own government in the current Knesset. without sending Israelis to the polls. Orbach chairs the Knesset House Committee, which is to review the dispersal law.

The chances of forming an alternative right-wing coalition in the current Knesset are seen by politicians and analysts as nearly impossible. Netanyahu is still opposed by a majority of Knesset lawmakers, in part because he faces criminal charges in three corruption cases.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, center, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset Constitution Committee, headed by Labor MK Gilad Kariv, is due to meet Sunday morning and begin processing its own version of the dispersal bill, in case Orbach tries to delay the process on Monday. Kariv, a coalition loyalist, said on Thursday he would try to fast-track legislation through the Constitution Committee, avoiding Orbach, despite the Knesset legal adviser raising doubts about the legality of the move. the process.

Orbach, one of the coalition’s most right-wing members, effectively severed ties with the ruling bloc last week, stripping it of a majority in the Knesset and ultimately leading to Bennett’s decision to start the process. dissolution of the Knesset for new elections.

In announcing he was leaving the coalition, Orbach said he preferred the government to be replaced by an alternative coalition, which can be done if at least 61 lawmakers support a different ministerial slate. Such a decision would negate the need for another round of elections.

If the Knesset dissolves on Monday, as scheduled, Lapid will take over as prime minister on Tuesday or Wednesday, according to media reports on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks with protesters demonstrating against violence against women, in Tel Aviv, June 25, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Lapid is not expected to make dramatic changes to the government as prime minister during the caretaker government, the Kan public broadcaster said. Although the Knesset will largely cease to legislate after its disbandment, the government will remain in place until a new one is sworn in after the election. Lapid will serve as prime minister until elections in the fall and the formation of Israel’s next coalition government.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked reportedly asked to take over as interim Justice Minister, but Justice Minister Gideon Saar refused to take the Foreign Ministry away from Lapid in exchange, Channel 12 reported.

Lapid will continue to serve as foreign minister while he is prime minister, according to the report.

Most staff in the prime minister’s office will remain in place, including the national security adviser and the military secretary, according to Kan.

With elections set to take place in late October or early November, Netanyahu’s Likud party is reportedly already maneuvering to sabotage Lapid’s chances of success in this vote, and after it, by refusing to back a proposed law to renew the application of Israeli law to settlers in the West Bank.

The measure has long been approved by the Knesset as a matter of routine, but Bennett’s coalition failed to pass the bill earlier this month as renegade lawmakers on the left refused to back it. This failure was one of the main reasons why the coalition collapsed soon after.

Discussion and vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 22, 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Likud and other opposition parties had refused to pass the Settlers’ Law and other government legislation, even if they supported it ideologically, in order to bring down the government. The Settlers Bill must be renewed every five years and expires on June 30. If it expires, it could have dire consequences for settlers, with Sa’ar warning of the risk of legal “chaos” in the West Bank.

The coalition can put the bill back to a vote before the end of the month. However, if the Knesset dissolves before July 1, the bill will automatically be renewed for six months, putting it through the election cycle.

Channel 13 reported on Saturday that Likud wants the bill only extended for six months and will not vote for it if it returns, in case Lapid manages to form a government after the fall elections. . A Lapid-led government would include left-leaning parties and would likely again have difficulty getting the bill passed. If Likud helps pass the bill this week, it would be extended for another five years, removing a hurdle for a potential Lapid government.

A Likud-led coalition would be made up of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties and would likely have no trouble pushing the legislation through.

Finance Minister and Israel Beytenu Party Chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

This eventual government of Netanyahu will not include the right-wing secular Yisrael Beytenu party, according to its leader.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who leads Yisrael Beytenu, vowed on Saturday that he would not sit in a government with Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.

“We will not sit with Netanyahu under any condition or circumstance, nor with Shas and [United] Torah Judaism,” Liberman told Channel 12. Liberman is staunchly right-wing, but a longtime foe of Netanyahu and ultra-Orthodox parties.

Other coalition leaders have ruled out joining Netanyahu, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who leads the Blue and White party, and Sa’ar, who leads the New Hope faction.

Bennett said Netanyahu was “divisive” and “not the right person” to serve as prime minister, but also did not rule out cooperating with him.

Polls predicted a post-election stalemate, with neither Netanyahu’s bloc nor Bennett’s coalition parties able to form a majority government, without any change in political alliances. All surveys found that both sides fell short of the 61 seats needed for the 120-seat Knesset, with the predominantly Arab Joint List faction, which is not aligned with either side, holding the balance of power. However, the eight parties forming the current government will not necessarily remain united after their experience of a turbulent coalition.

In a broad and candid interview on Saturday, Bennett called for an end to the practice of political opponents “invalidating” certain parties, and said he believed in the possibility of a broad coalition, ranging from the Islamist Ra’am party to the Far-right religious Zionism.

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