The government that’s being formed by Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid will be a parity government. The word originates from German: parität; and Latin: paritas – equality), or equivalence. But the next government will achieve the equivalence in a somewhat unusual way so that on its right side there will be only Bennett and Sa’ar (12 coalition seats), and on the left – everyone, including Avigdor Liberman and Benny Gantz (49 seats).
To overcome this clear imbalance in the other side’s favor, the Bennett and Sa’ar negotiation teams demanded, Give us greater power in decision-making within the government, to make up for the fact that we have fewer MKs.
At this point in the negotiation process, the proposed parity means that in each cabinet decision, the votes from each of the two factions would be counted separately, and while the votes of all the 12 members on the right would count, the left would have only 12 votes, divided in proportion to the 49 votes that were cast.
Insane? Possibly, but in the opinion of most of the members of the coming coalition, less insane than spending the time between now and Yom Kippur in a fifth election campaign that would land the country in the same balance of powers, more or less.
The parity principle will likely be applied only in sensitive votes where there are clear, fundamental differences between the two factions in the government. One of Bennett and Lapid’s key decisions in the previous round of negotiations, before the Gaza operation, was a freeze on controversial legislation for at least one year. The coalition agreements between Yesh Atid and the other parties that oppose Netanyahu’s rule do not include such a freeze period, including regarding sensitive religion and state legislation. The solution may be a set period during which no private or controversial bills would be discussed by the government’s legislative committee. In any case, Lapid and Bennett have already agreed that religion and state bills would be promoted by consensus only. Also: the government legislative committee—without whose endorsement a bill usually does not become a law—is chaired by the Interior Minister, in this case, Gideon Sa’ar.
In the previous round of negotiations, it was agreed that Bennett’s faction, with 12 MKs, would receive eight ministerial portfolios, while the other faction with 49 MKs, would receive 18. There may be changes in the distribution of those portfolios, but Lapid has clearly given up one of his most passionate promises to his voters: to keep his government down to 18 portfolios. Can you say, 30?
Bennett succeeded in keeping what he called the ideological portfolios, including Justice for Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope), Interior for Ayelet Shaked (Yamina), Education for Yifat Shasha-Bitton (New Hope), and Religious services for Matan Kahane (Yamina).
Another significant issue is the next Speaker of the Knesset. Yesh Atid is unwilling to give up and give this post, reserving it for its MK Meir Cohen. New Hope is pushing MK Zeev Elkin for the role – incidentally, Elkin is probably the most politically savvy man in the Knesset bar none, including the PM, who used to rely on him for all his maneuvers. See what happens when you lose Elkin?
This dispute may also be resolved with a rotation, so that during Bennett’s tenure as Prime Minister, Cohen would serve as Speaker of the Knesset, and after the switch, in two years, Elkin would get the job.
The main obstacle for the new coalition government is time. In just three days, all the separate coalition agreements must be adjusted to reflect one another, so that everyone can sign them, including the latest newcomers, Bennett and Shaked. To that end, Lapid’s agreement with Blue&White has not yet been finalized, and the Agriculture portfolio is still being fought over by several parties. New Hope has also not yet reached a final understanding on the distribution of portfolios.
One more strategic headache is posed by the current Speaker of the House, Yariv Levin (Likud). Once Lapid informs President Reuven Rivlin that he has succeeded in cobbling a new coalition government, it is up to Speaker Levin, as his final act in office, to set the time for searing in the new government. The speaker will have a week, according to the law, to assemble the Knesset. If Lapid makes his announcement too soon, when all the final wrinkles had not been ironed out of his coalition deals, Levin can call the swearing early and stick Lapid with an unfinished cabinet. On the other hand, Levin might opt to schedule the swearing-in for next week – giving Netanyahu and Smotrich ample time to agitate among Yamina members and settlements rabbis against joining the left-wing government which is supported by Islamic supporters of terrorism.