Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Liberman declared indirectly in a Facebook post on Sunday that he would recommend the chairman of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid to the president as the candidate who should be assigned the task of forming the next government.
Liberman announced, without explicitly mentioning Lapid’s name: “It is important to emphasize that all of Israel Beiteinu’s commitments before the election remain valid today. As we have said, we will recommend the party chairman from the bloc of change who will receive the highest number of seats as the candidate to form the government.”
Liberman also promised that “upon the inauguration of the 24th Knesset, Israel Beiteinu will submit a bill that will limit the term of office of a prime minister to only two terms, a proposal that Netanyahu has previously supported. Another bill we will submit will require the resignation of a prime minister against whom was filed a criminal indictment, which passed in a preliminary vote in the Knesset on May 21, 2008, with the support of the Likud, including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Haredi parties, and the Labor Party—whose member submitted the bill, and Meretz.”
Of course, that bill followed the criminal investigation of then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A lot has happened since, and now, 12 years later, there’s a reasonable chance that, following the last election, all of Netanyahu’s haters will unite to overthrow him.
Yesh Atid and Blue&White chairmen Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz met on Sunday evening to discuss “the possibility of forming a government and replacing Netanyahu.” At the end of their meeting, the two parties stated that they “discussed the ways to form a government and replace Netanyahu.” It was further reported that the two men are expected to continue the talks between them over the next few days. It was the first time the two met since last year’s election when they ran together on the Blue&White list, and after a long period of a murky relationship between them.
At the moment, the anti-Bibi bloc includes Yesh Atid – 17, Blue and White – 8, Israel Beiteinu – 7, Labor – 7, New Hope – 6, altogether 45. If they succeed in convincing Yemina chairman Naftali Bennett (7) to join, they would have 52 seats. Meretz with 6 votes and the joint list with 6 will be able in the first phase to recommend to the president that Yair Lapid be tasked with forming the government.
In the meantime, Lapid’s bloc’s parties will be able to join forces to replace the Likud Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin and appoint Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen in his place. Then the Knesset would be able to start passing laws before a new government is formed, laws that would prevent Netanyahu from running in the next election – whether through banning an MK who faces criminal indictments from running for prime minister or by limiting the number of prime minister’s consecutive terms.
Once they take over the Knesset Speaker’s post, the Likud will not be able to prevent these moves.
The Likud has 30 seats, and together with Shas (9), United Torah Judaism (7), and Religious Zionism (6), Netanyahu’s bloc has 52 seats. It will not be enough for Netanyahu to add Yamina to his bloc – it would yield him only 59 seats. Netanyahu would also need the good services of the Raam chairman and leader of the Islamic Movement, MK Mansour Abbas.
According to some media outlets in Israel, the Lapid camp is ready to offer Bennett a rotation deal, according to which he would serve as prime minister for the first year, Lapid for the next two years, and Bennet takes over again in the final year.
Netanyahu has already announced that he would not agree to a rotation with Bennett. Besides, Bezalel Smotrich’s and Itamar Ben Gvir’s Religious Zionism has already declared that it would never agree to any deal with Raam, inside the Netanyahu coalition or in a supporting role outside.
It is precisely this refusal of his friends in Religious Zionism that could give Bennett the excuse to join the Lapid right-center-left bloc, especially if Meretz and the Joint Arab List will not be partners in the coalitions, but will only support it from the outside.