Israel Finally Swears in New Government After Supreme Court Approval; Yamina Joins Opposition

Israel’s Supreme Court gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the green light to form a unity government while under indictment, ruling that under Israeli law the indictment did not bar him forming a new government. The court also approved Netanyahu-Gantz’s unity deal after the pair submitted changes. The deal had been challenged by the opposition. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Israel’s former Knesset speaker, Yuli Edelsein, told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he wants his old job back. Edelstein made the demand during a strained meeting with Netanyahu to discuss the former’s role in the unity government. Edelstein resigned his position last month rather than obey a Supreme Court order to reopen. Netanyahu’s deal with rival Benny Gantz to form a unity government does not allow Edelstein to return to his former post. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The Yamina party will not be a part of the unity government. Yamina, led by Naftali Bennett, has been a longtime ally of Netanyahu. In an official statement, Yamina said that it was joining to opposition. “In light of the composition of the [incoming] government and its emerging policies that appear to make it a left-wing government headed by Netanyahu, and in light of the prime minister’s blatant disrespect for Yamina and its voters, the Yamina party has decided to serve the public during the upcoming term from the opposition, where it will fight on behalf of the nationalist camp,” the party said. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In a bid to entice Yamina into the unity government, Netanyahu sought to increase the number of agreed ministries from 32 to 36. Gantz had agreed to an initial government of 30 ministries for the first six months, with efforts focused on fighting the coronavirus. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Nonetheless, coalition talks between Yamina and Likud failed again on May 12. In a public statement Likud declared that “Last night it became clear at long last that Yamina decided to quit the right-wing bloc.” Likud accused Yamina leader Naftali Bennett of making demands that “bear no relation to his party’s electoral size, or to the priorities of religious Zionism.” Bezalel Smotrich, the number three person in Yamina, retorted, accusing Netanyahu and Likud of being “patronizing, condescending and disrespectful” toward the religious right and saying Netanyahu “only sees Netanyahu.” He also said that in the forty years Likud has run the country it had achieved “very limited results in almost every area.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… An unnamed source in the Yamina party also launched a vehement attack against Netanyahu, saying, “Today’s date, May 12, will go down in history as the start of Netanyahu’s fall from power. … This is the day that Netanyahu has cut his ties with the right wing and religious Zionism, which were his most faithful partners for decades. … While they showed loyalty to him, he stabbed them in the back.” Likud fought back, claiming that Bennett was demanding four senior cabinet portfolios that had no relation to the party’s Zionist agenda. Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

Israel’s 36th government was set to be installed on Thursday, May 14. The swearing in was originally scheduled to take place on the 13th, but was pushed back a day to accommodate U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Jerusalem the same day. The new unity government is made up of members of the Likud, Blue and White, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Labor and Gesher parties. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…The swearing in on the 14th (Thursday) didn’t occur until Sunday the 17th, however. The swearing in was postponed yet again by Netanyahu and Gantz, due to infighting in Likud and disagreements over cabinet appointees. Reported by Fox News.Read more… The unity government was finally sworn in on Sunday, May 17. The ceremony was led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former political rival now ally Benny Gantz and ended 500 days without a stable government, the longest political crisis in Israel’s history. When he addressed the Knesset, Prime Minister Netanyahu insisted annexation of the West Bank must occur, saying, “It’s time to apply Israeli law and write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism.” Reported by Yahoo News. Read more… The new government passed the Knesset by a vote of 73 to 46. Merav Michaeli, a Labor lawmaker, refused to follow her colleagues into the unity government, voting instead to sit in the opposition. The new government will have 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers, the largest in Israel’s history. Benny Gantz will succeed Netanyahu in 18-months. Reported by Haaretz. Read more… Whether the unity government will weather the political storms to come remains to be seen. Netanyahu and Gantz have tried to anticipate some of the crises and how to handle them. For example, if Israel’s courts bar Netanyahu from serving as alternate prime minister when Gantz takes over, Netanyahu will have the right to take the country to new elections. And although Netanyahu will be able to pursue annexation of the West Bank, a move not supported by Blue and White, he must do so by ratifying U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan and “striving to safeguard Israel’s security and strategic interests, including the maintaining of regional stability, the upholding of peace agreements with its neighbors and striving for future peace agreements”—vague language at best that could present Gantz with the opportunity to scuttle annexation or the unity government by claiming Netanyahu has violated those terms. Reported by Haaretz. Read more…