Photo Credit: Gershon Elinson / Flash 90
Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. July 23, 2017

One hour before the deadline that would kick the coalition football into the Knesset plenum, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid managed to sign each coalition partner to the deal that will form a center-left government in Israel with Naftali Bennett as the first prime minister in the rotation, and Yair Lapid following after him.

The signed letter to President Rivlin that Yair Lapid can form a coalition. June 2, 2021

All coalition partners — including Yamina’s Naftali Bennett and Tikva Hadasha (New Hope)’s Gideon Sa’ar — signed the deal at around 11 pm, according to Walla! News. The parties in the coalition are Yesh Atid, Yamina, Tikva Hadasha, Meretz, Labor, Blue&White and Ra’am.

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Lapid has now officially told President Reuven Rivlin that he can form a new government together with Bennett. Though it’s not as simple as that, as Yamina MK Nir Orbach is holding out, and without his vote, the coalition won’t have the 61 members it needs for a vote of confidence. Bennett is trying to get Orbach to either agree to the coalition or quit, so a Bennett loyalist who is next in line can come in, in his place.

Bennett lost his number 3 list member Alon Davidi who quit right after elections, and MK Amichai Chikli who effectively split from Bennett, after Bennett veered sharp left. Unlike Davidi, Chikli did not quit the Knesset.

Lapid and Bennett now has 12 days to get all their ducks in a row. By sending the declaration to the president, they prevented the mandate being sent to the Knesset for a free-for-all attempt at forming a coalition, where every MK could be a candidate for prime mininster.

After 12 consecutive years in power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will step down and his Likud party will enter the opposition in the Knesset. Netanyahu is the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history.

Ra’am Party chairperson Mansour Abbas made history Wednesday night when he signed a coalition agreement that allows Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid to tell President Reuven Rivlin when the deadline arrives that he has formed a coalition.

The Shura Council of the Southern Islamic Movement met in Kfar Qassem to decide whether to empower Abbas to make the decision to enter the coalition, which he did shortly thereafter.

This is the first time in Israeli history that an Arab party has joined an Israeli coalition government as well as the only time in Israeli history that an Israeli government was reliant on an Arab party.

Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party seen after signing the coalition agreement, at the Maccabiah village in Ramat Gan on June 02, 2021. Photo Credit: Avshalom Sassoni / Flash 90

Lapid, Abbas and Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett met and reached an agreement Wednesday night at the Kfar HaMaccabia Hotel in Ramat Gan.

“We are negotiating not about political posts but about solutions to the challenges faced by the Arab community,” Abbas told Channel 12 after the Shura Council meeting. “We do not intend to flex muscles but to remain focused on our professional requests.”

Bennett’s Yamina party and that of New Hope (Tikva Hadasha) led by Gideon Sa’ar, still had not signed the coalition document by 10:30 pm.

The deadline for the completion of coalition wheeling and dealing is set for Wednesday night at midnight. Had the document remained unsigned by any party to the coalition at that time, the mandate would return to President Reuven Rivlin, and for the next 21 days, any Knesset lawmaker who wanted to try to form a coalition had the legal right to do so.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.