Israel’s Shinui (“change”) bloc, headed by Yesh Atid Party chairman Yair Lapid, initiated a move to replace Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud), multiple media outlets reported on Thursday. Some outlets reported the move by Lapid was not coordinated in advance with his partner Naftali Bennett.
The attempt followed Lapid’s announcement to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday night that he would be able to form the next government.
Levin hails from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. The coalition-in-formation’s desired replacement is Yesh Atid’s Mickey Levy.
The speaker of the Knesset controls the parliament’s voting schedule and could delay or hasten a vote of confidence in the proposed new government. If the Shinui coalition succeeds in ousting Levin, a vote of confidence could take place as soon as next week. If it does not succeed, Levin could delay the vote until June 14, according to Israel’s Channel 12.
The aim of the swift move was to prevent Netanyahu and his allies from having more time to apply pressure on members of the Shinui coalition, already fraught with ideological rifts, to retract their support for the petition to replace Levin and potentially even to retract their support for the Shinui coalition. One such member, Yamina Party MK Nir Orbach, asked that his name be removed from the petition, depriving it of the necessary 61 signatures.
It is currently unclear if Orbach will decide to support the confidence vote in the Shinui coalition. Orbach is reportedly torn between his personal loyalty to Naftali Bennett and his ideological beliefs. A number of Yamina MKs have abandoned Bennett after his turn to the left.
Members of the Joint Arab List, which does not officially support the Shinui bloc, reportedly offered to attach their signatures to the petition. According to Israel’s Army Radio, however, the Tikva Hadasha (“New Hope”) party, headed by Gideon Sa’ar, says it won’t permit that, and it won’t let its government be reliant on the Joint List. There are reports that there are MKs within Sa’ar’s part who are also unhappy with the Shinui coalition.
Army Radio also reported that Netanyahu called an emergency meeting on Thursday with Likud delegates, officials from Judea and Samaria and his haredi backers to discuss how to “put the brakes” on the announced coalition.
According to the coalition agreement, though Lapid was given the mandate to form the next government, he will rotate in the role of premier with Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett, who will serve first at the helm, during which time Lapid will serve as foreign minister.