New government to be sworn in on Sunday

What happened: Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin confirmed yesterday that MKs will convene on Sunday, 13 June, to vote on the new government and swear in Naftali Bennett as the next prime minister of Israel.

  • Yamina MK Nir Orbach announced yesterday that he has decided to vote in favour of the new government. In a long Facebook post he explained, “I am not taking this path with happiness or enthusiasm, I am taking it precisely because it is unclear … an exemplary society can include rightists and leftists in one home. An exemplary society should shun marginal forces. In this exemplary society, religious Zionism … should have a central place.”
  • In a direct critique of the Religious Zionist Party, Orbach added: “Unfortunately, the political religious Zionism from which I came, which knew how to cooperate with both right and left, is no longer. It has been appropriated by forces that don’t represent me or the community I came from.”
  • Orbach’s confirmation assures the incoming government a slender 61-59 seat majority.
  • In response, head of the Religious Zionist Party Bezalel Smotrich wrote on twitter, “I wanted to write that he’s a nobody. But he’s so arrogant, insolent, untruthful and power-seeking that he would come over to us immediately had we offered him a reserved spot.”
  • Yesterday also saw unprecedentedly harsh criticism from the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties who will join the opposition after Sunday’s vote. In a joint press conference, Shas leader Aryeh Deri warned: “The Jewish state is in danger. The State of Israel is changing its appearance and identity. The government headed by Bennett will destroy and ruin everything that we have preserved of the Jewish character and identity of the country, which enables life together over the last 73 years together.”
  • United Torah Judaism’s (UTJ) Yaakov Litzman said Israel’s “entire Jewish character is in danger. Jewish tradition, values and religion, the pillars of Judaism have been thrown in the garbage. Conversion, yeshiva students, the Torah world, the holy Sabbath, the Western Wall, recognising Reform Jews … everything is going to haters of religion, Lieberman, Bennett and Lapid.”
  • While Moshe Gafni (also UTJ) called Bennett “a wicked person who is an embarrassment to the kippa”.
  • Designated Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responded saying: “I was very sorry to hear the harsh expressions used by MKs Gafni, Deri and Litzman. These are expressions that do not add respect to them and reflect a loss of temper. Only a year ago, when the current unity government was formed, the right remained outside, and the ultra-Orthodox sat inside. You did not see me calling Gafni to remove his yamulkah. There was a government, we were not part of it, and the sun was shining in the morning. The ultra-Orthodox Knesset members will not teach us what Judaism is and certainly not what Zionism is.”
  • He also sought to reassure the general ultra-Orthodox population by saying, “You have nothing to worry about. On the contrary, the past year has shown that you are the ones paying, with your very life, for a political culture of neglect, preference for associates and perpetuation of problems.”

Context: This will be the first government in 12 years that is not led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to become Leader of the Opposition.

  • By law a new government needs to present their guidelines and coalition agreements 24 hours before the vote, but due to the Sabbath, they will do this on Friday. In the meantime, more details have emerged about the coalition agreements:
    • The new government will be based on a parity agreement between Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, with both having veto power.
    • Gideon Saar and Benny Gantz will serve as deputy prime minister, and the security cabinet will be comprised of 12 members, six from each side.
    • United Arab List leader MK Mansour Abbas will be appointed a deputy minister and will be given a budget of NIS 0.5 billion (£109m) to use at his own discretion to invest in Arab communities.
    • The new government intends to immediately introduce legislation that would limit the tenure of a prime minister to either two terms or eight years (the longer between the two).
    • The new government intends to draft and approve a state budget quickly upon its establishment.
    • It also intends to draft and to pass into legislation Basic Law: Legislation and a military draft law.
    • It is also expected to establish a state commission of inquiry to investigate the Mt. Meron disaster, where 45 people were crushed to death during Lag B’omer celebrations at the end of April.

Looking ahead: The 36th government of Israel will be sworn in on Sunday at 4pm local time.

  • Ahead of the swearing-in, the Knesset will elect a new Speaker to replace Levin, with Mickey Levy from Yesh Atid expected to take over.
  • The ceremony will begin with an address by the new Prime Minister, followed by incoming Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid. It is customary for the new leader of the opposition to then speak.
  • The ceremony will be completed with the commemorative photo of the faction leaders alongside President Rivlin.

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