Israeli parliament to vote on anti-Netanyahu government on Sunday

Israeli politicians will hold a confidence vote on an opposition-led government on Sunday, a move that, if successful, will unseat the country’s longest-serving leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The debate and vote on the new government will take place Sunday, June 13, 2021 during a special session of parliament,” the speaker of the Knesset, Yariv Levin, announced in a statement. If the vote passes, it is expected to lead to a swearing-in the same day.

The leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid, has gathered eight Israeli parties with vast ideological differences to form what he calls a “government of change”, which has the primary aim of ousting Netanyahu, who has been in power for 12 consecutive years.

“It’s happening!” Lapid wrote on Twitter following the date confirmation. “The unity government is on the way and ready to work on behalf of all the people of Israel.”


Who is Yair Lapid?


A telegenic former TV news anchor popular with secular middle-class Israelis, Yair Lapid was charged with forging a governing coalition before the deadline on 2 June. 

Lapid’s Yesh Atid party has promised to lower the cost of living and reduce the power of religious authorities, for example, by bringing in civil marriage.

The 57-year-old has described himself as a centrist and somebody who supports a two-state solution. However, Lapid also said he was a “security hawk” and that there were some issues he would not compromise on in any future negotiations with the Palestinians, such as control over Jerusalem, a critical issue in the crisis.

“The Palestinians want to destroy us more than they want to build a nation,” he said in a recent interview with the Times of Israel. “And as long as this is the situation, there will be no two states.” Oliver Holmes

Photograph: Debbie Hill/UPI POOL

The fragile alliance includes a far-right former settler leader, Naftali Bennett, who under the agreement will become prime minister for the first half of a four-year term before handing over to Lapid. Arab Islamist and Zionist centrist and leftwing politicians have also joined the coalition.

Netanyahu, 71, has sought to undermine the government in waiting and find potential defectors within its ranks with the hopes of chipping away at its razor-thin majority of 61 seats in a 120-seat Knesset.

On Sunday, the veteran incumbent urged rightwing opposition politicians to reject what he called a “dangerous leftwing government”, which he said was the result of the “greatest election fraud in the history of the country”. Netanyahu accuses Bennett of abandoning rightwing voters by partnering with Lapid.


Who is Naftali Bennett?


A far-right former settler leader, Naftali Bennett was once a senior aide and adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and ran Israel’s education and defence ministries in his governments.

Bennett, who wants to annex most of the occupied West Bank, remains ideologically close to Netanyahu and was once a member of his ruling Likud party. However, the 49-year-old has fallen foul of his old boss.

A stalwart of Israel’s religious right, Bennett is a former leader of Yesha, the main Jewish settler movement in the West Bank. He has made settlement expansion, the annexation of Palestinian land and the rejection of a Palestinian state a feature of his political platform.

“I would not give another centimetre to the Arabs,” he said in 2018. “We have to drop the idea that if we give them more territory the world will love us.”

The son of immigrants from San Francisco, Bennett became a hi-tech millionaire after selling an anti-fraud software company to a US security firm. On some issues, the former commando is less conservative than his colleague on the hard right, including gay rights and the relationship between religion and state. Oliver Holmes

Photograph: Yonatan Sindel/Pool Flash 90

The timing of the confidence vote, set by the Knesset speaker Levin, a Netanyahu ally, is seen as providing the prime minister with extra time to torpedo the coalition plans. Opposition figures had sought an earlier date.

Unconfirmed Israeli media reports on Tuesday suggested the new government would submit to parliament several proposals, including legislation that could impose a two-term limit on any prime minister. The bill would effectively ban Netanyahu – a five-term leader – from high office in the future.

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