The Islamist Ra’am party is expected to actively support, but not be part of, a unity government led by Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
In return, the emerging government will comply with a list of Ra’am demands that include budgets to combat violent crimes in the Arab community and recognize three Bedouin communities in the south of the country that are currently considered illegal. Ra’am leader MK Mansour Abbas reportedly made other demands aimed at increasing government activities on behalf of the Arab community.
Bennett met with Abbas earlier in the day in what was later described as productive, and the two are expected to meet again with Lapid on Monday.
After inconclusive elections in March, the Knesset was split between a bloc of right-wing and religious parties that supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to stay in power, and the so-called « change bloc » of a left, center and right . Wing parties who want to replace him.
None of the blocs have a majority, but Ra’am’s support for the Lapid-led « change bloc » would give him more supportive MKs than in the opposing bloc of Netanyahu, allowing a government to be formed.
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This would be the first Israeli government to rely on the support of an Arab party. Netanyahu also tried to form a coalition with Ra’am’s support, but failed, but ultimately failed because the far-right religious Zionism party refused to sit in a government that was in any way supported by a party that it supported « Terrorist » called.
There are also reports that significant progress has been made in coalition negotiations between Lapid and Bennett, as well as the other parties in the emerging coalition. Lapid, who leads coalition-building efforts, may be ready this week to announce to President Reuven Rivlin that he can form a government, a high-level source on Block Channel 13 said. The coalition is ready to be sworn in next week for the Shavuot Festival.
Negotiations between the parties to the change bloc have reportedly continued to initiate discussions about what first steps such a government will take after its installation.
The parties have agreed that the government will avoid major ideological issues – such as religious matters – for the first year unless there is broad consensus, in order to avoid confrontations between its members, who hold vastly different views on some key issues. Channel 12 reported.
To this end, Bennett informed his Yamina faction members that he would continue the same policy as Netanyahu with regard to the West Bank, namely not annexing any territory or building new settlements, but also not building any existing Jewish ones Freeze or remove municipalities on report.
An agreement is emerging that the government will set up a state commission of inquiry into last month’s tragedy at a religious festival on Mount Meron that crushed 45 people to death. Netanyahu is said to be against such a commission, allegedly because he fears the political consequences.
The negotiations also included discussing the first laws the government would put in place, including legislation limiting the prime minister’s term of office, Channel 13 reported.
Consideration is being given to a bill that would limit a prime minister to only two full terms. Netanyahu, who has been in power for 12 years, is well above that ceiling. Other laws would prohibit anyone charged from mandate to form a government as prime minister, opposition leader or post-election, the report said. Netanyahu is currently on trial on three corruption cases. he insists that he is innocent and dismisses the charges against him as part of a witch hunt.
In another change, the New Hope Party in the alleged coalition is trying to split the attorney general position in two and add an attorney general position, Channel 12 reported.
It was also said that progress had been made in dividing the ministries between the different parties. New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, likely Minister of Justice, is reportedly becoming a position currently held by blue-and-white leader Benny Gantz. Although Gantz is leaving this service, he will continue to be Secretary of Defense.
Yaminas MK Ayelet Shaked was offered the choice of taking on the public safety, education, transportation or interior ministries, Channel 12 reported.
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz was tapped for the health minister, although it is known that he is visiting the education ministry. His party member Meretz, MK Tamar Zandberg, is said to be environmental protection minister.
There are still divisions on some issues, however, with blue and white as well as secular right-wing Yisrael Beytenu bidding for controversial positions as well.
Labor Party leader MK Merav Michaeli wants the Home Office and New Hope Party to see MK Yifat Shasha-Biton take over the Ministry of Education. Negotiations with Labor and Meretz continued on Sunday evening. The two parties were reportedly being offered as compensation for failing to fulfill their ministerial demands to chair key Knesset committees.
As the coalition-building process continues, Netanyahu and his Likud party are putting pressure on the right-wing Yamina party not to join Lapid in a government that the prime minister has repeatedly warned will be « left ».
Likud activists have also pushed the issue, holding protests in front of the homes of some Yamina MKs, including on Sunday evening.
Shaked had to get a new cell phone after being bombarded with nasty messages from Likud and other right-wing activists, Channel 12 news reported.
Bennett filed a complaint with the Knesset Guard on Sunday after announcements of his death were posted on social media.
Lapid received the presidential mandate to form a government last week. The sides are believed to have agreed that Bennett will serve as prime minister for the first two years of administration, while Lapid will serve for the last two years.
If Lapid fails to cobble together a coalition during his 28-day window, ending June 2nd, any Knesset member could try to get a majority of legislators to approve the prime minister. If that 21-day deadline does not result in a coalition, the country would be forced into the unprecedented scenario of a fifth election in two and a half years.
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