Israeli lawmakers are waiting, and debating with each other as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries to find an 11th-hour solution to end the stalemate and avoid a reboot at the polls this September.
But so far, it looks like he’s not going to make it.
Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman is continuing to stand firm on his refusal to compromise over the draft bill for strictly Orthodox yeshiva students, and his demand for the Defense portfolio.
Netanyahu’s Likud party has begun to say Liberman wants to replace Netanyahu as prime minister.
Likud members released a statement on Wednesday afternoon attacking Liberman, saying he “continues to mislead. He says ‘I will consider’ to every offer and stalls for a few days. His goal is to end Netanyahu’s career and replace him… For a few seats and his hunger for power, he is dragging an entire country to elections.”
Claims that Liberman is defending the rights of the secular population were debunked when Likud pointed out that Liberman blocked the election of a secular mayor in Jerusalem.
Residents in the Negev city of Arad can point to his teaming up with UTJ’s Yaacov Litzman in an effort during elections to remove that city’s secular mayor as well.
As the jockeying continues, the Kulanu and Likud parties approved an agreement Tuesday to run on a joint list – this is not a merger – if in fact the country goes to new elections on September 17. In such a case, Kulanu party leader and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon will receive the fifth spot on the Likud list, Economy Minister Eli Cohen will receive the 15th spot, Yifat Shasha-Biton the 29th and Roy Folkman will be number 35.
There are also reports that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, formerly of the Bayit Yehudi party and subsequently of the failed New Right party, is shopping around and considering various political options, much in the same way that former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni once did before her ultimate political demise.
Shaked is more right-wing, far younger and far more popular, but at present she too is without a political home – and so far, Bayit Yehudi chairman and MK Rabbi Rafi Peretz is reportedly disinclined to invite her back into the fold ahead of possible new elections. The current party constitution requires an 18-month membership prior to running for office; Peretz reportedly asked the party’s secretariat not to make changes to the constitution that would enable her to rejoin under former terms allowing her to run for re-election, apparently fearing a challenge to his leadership.
Shaked met Wednesday with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at his Tel Aviv office; it is likely he tried to convince her to remain with his New Right party for at least another election cycle, although there are reports the Likud may be competing with him to recruit Shaked as well.
Another crisis that is threatening to cause havoc in the Knesset on Wednesday night is forming among the parties not involved in coalition talks.
Non-coalition parties are reportedly planning to filibuster the session in order to foil the dissolution of the Knesset in order to give another lawmaker a shot at building a government – a proposal that was being debated in the parliament earlier in the day. The final vote on dissolution is expected to take place just before midnight; however, the opposition has said it will filibuster that debate to prevent the final vote before the expiration of the deadline for the prime minister to announce a coalition.
At that point, President Reuven Rivlin can select another Knesset member to attempt to form a coalition. Or he can add another three days to the prime minister’s efforts.
The president has released a video saying he “will do everything in my power to prevent Israel from heading toward another election campaign” but it remains to be seen exactly which measures he will take in order to stop that from happening.