Final talks underway ahead of swearing-in of Bennett-Lapid government

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Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid announced last week that he had succeeded in forming a new government with Yamina’s Naftali Bennett, ultimately ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in power.

Knesset lawmakers will cast a vote of confidence on the Bennett-Lapid government on Sunday, followed by a swearing-in ceremony for the new government. These proceedings will follow a vote for the speaker of the 24th Knesset.

The Knesset will vote Sunday at 4 P.M. on approving the new Lapid-Bennett government that would unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Arrangements Committee confirmed Wednesday morning.

The special plenary session will begin by introducing incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his alternate Yair Lapid, presenting the structure of the new cabinet, its appointees, as well as the date when Bennett and Lapid will switch places.

Netanyahu will then have an opportunity to retort, as the representative of the largest party that isn’t a  part of the new coalition.

Afterwards, every caucus will be allotted nine minutes to address the plenum. At the end of the debate, the lawmakers will elect a new Knesset speaker and vote on the proposed government. Then, the new prime minister and his alternate, along with their cabinet, will be sworn in.

On Tuesday, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin announced that the swearing-in ceremony will take place on Sunday. The new government must make the coalition agreements public 24 hours before it is approved by the Knesset; since Saturday is a rest day in Israel, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett will have to publicize the agreements on Friday, giving Netanyahu’s supporters more time to pressure members of the new coalition to vote against it.

Two lawmakers from Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party are set to resign from the Knesset next week, taking advantage of the “Norwegian Law” that allows ministers and deputy ministers to suspend their legislative position in favor of the next candidates on their party’s election slate. The two, Yoaz Hendel and Zeev Elkin, are earmarked for the Communications portfolio and the Housing portfolio respectively, with Elkin also expected to act as the Knesset-cabinet liaison. Hendel and Elkin will be replaced in the Knesset by Zvi Hauser and Meir Yitzhak-Halevi, the mayor of Eilat.

The influential Arrangement’s Committee is convening to discuss the expected swearing-in of the new Bennett-Lapid government next week.

On Tuesday, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin announced that lawmakers would vote on the new governing coalition on Sunday.

Zeev Elkin, a lawmaker from Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party, has agreed to take on the Knesset-cabinet liaison protfolio in the propsed Bennett-Lapid government, in addition to his nomination as housing minister, coalition leaders said in a statement.

Reports on Israeli media said Elkin was uncertain he would back the proposed government in a confidence vote slated for Sunday, but coalition leaders Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, in a joint statement, called them “ridiculous spins.”

They did, however, also said they’ve agreed with Elkin on his nomination during a four-way meeting at Sa’ar’s home.

“This is a young government, and we need Elkin’s vast experience and wisdom to face the major challenges ahead, and first and foremost passing a budget,” they said.

Elkin presented several conditions for his support for the proposed government, mostly relating to settlement expansion and opposition to any moves toward renewed negotiations with the Palestinians.

Ahead of the meeting, Elkin said in a tweet he was “committed to New Hope… and the agreements we’ve reached.”

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett, set to become Israel’s first Orthodox prime minister after a confidence vote next week, was accused Tuesday by ultra-Orthodox lawmakers – who back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and aren’t part of the proposed new government – of being a brazen sinner who should “remove his kippah.”

Bennett pushed back against the ultra-orthodox lawmakers’ attacks, calling them “expressions that do not bring them honor and reflect a loss of temper.”

Yamina lawmaker Nir Orbach on Tuesday told his party head, Naftali Bennett, that he intends to vote in support of the new government on  Sunday’s confidence vote in the Knesset.

In recent days, Orbach has debated whether he should back the proposed Bennett-Lapid government.

Orbach was also the target of immense public pressure on the political right to vote against forming the anti-Netanyahu government.

Clauses from the coalition agreements between the parties in the Bennett-Lapid government revealed on Monday that Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett will not necessarily be committed to agreements signed by Yesh Atid Leader Yair Lapid with other parties in the coalition.

For example, Yamina would not necessarily be obligated to a clause in the coalition agreement with Meretz that promises advancement on legislation advancing the standing of the LGBTQ community, or to repeal the Kaminetz Law as the United Arab List’s agreement stipulates. Both Bennett and Lapid, who will serve as alternate prime minister, will have veto power over any government decision.

The coalition agreements also preserve the Norwegian Law, allowing up to 26 ministers and deputies to step down from their role as Knesset members and allow other members of their parties to fill those seats. Parties with six seats will allow up to three lawmakers to resign. Parties with seven to nine seats will be able to have four members resign their Knesset seats, and parties with over ten can allow up to five members to resign. The security cabinet will include 12 members, with parity between the two blocs. The prime minister will determine the cabinet’s agenda.

The coalition agreement between Yamina and Yesh Atid will act as an umbrella agreement, which will obligate all the parties and will be added as an addendum to each of their individual coalition agreements. Clauses can be added to coalition agreements with the agreement of both Bennett and Lapid. All party leaders read and approved the agreements with all other party  members.

The far-right Religious Zionism party quickly condemned the agreements after their contents emerged. “Naftali Bennett has completely lost his senses morally,” a party statement read, which accused the Yamina chairman of aiming to become “an illegitimate prime minister with six seats.” The party claimed that the agreements “expose the liquidation sale of the Negev and the Galilee, damage to the state’s Jewish character and a severe perversion of democracy and the will of the people.” It was not too late, however, Religious Zionism argued, calling for “one hero with a moral compass and conscience to develop a moral spine and announce his opposition, and then instead of the establishment of a government by the bizarre left and terror supporters, a national government will be formed.”