Leaders trade blows during tense Knesset session approving new government


The Knesset approved the composition of the new government by the narrowest of margins yesterday evening as government and opposition leaders clashed in the plenum.

Following a day of tortuous negotiations with fellow Likud MKs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a list of incoming ministers to be sworn in. The special plenary session was postponed by two hours, with final portfolios still being allocated. Netanyahu’s government, which includes Kulanu, Jewish Home, Shas and United Torah Judaism in addition to his own Likud Party, has a slim single-seat majority. In what may be a precursor to future close Knesset votes, the presence of each government MK was required to approve the new government’s composition.

During his speech yesterday, Netanyahu said that advancing peace would be a priority. He was interrupted on several occasions by MKs from the United Arab List. He also criticised coalition partners, who he said had issued “exaggerated demands.”

Given the protracted process of forming a government, Netanyahu called for a change in the electoral system, noting “Every two years, on average, Israel changes its government. It takes you six months to hold elections and assemble a government.” Netanyahu turned specifically to opposition leader Isaac Herzog and said “I am leaving the door open to expanding the government for two reasons. The first: Because I think the state needs it. And second: Because this is the only way to amend this [political system].”

However, Herzog responded with sharp criticism, saying, “This is not the government the people wanted” and that, “This is a government without vision, without a working plan, without hope.” He said that Netanyahu was making a mistake to effectively keep the position of Foreign Minister vacant in order to entice others to join his government, saying, “No decent leader would join your circus.” Commenting on yesterday’s highly charged atmosphere, Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich said it was “just an example of what is going to happen daily from now on in the Knesset.”