As Israel fights the spread of the coronavirus, the never-ending political imbroglio continues. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz reportedly conducted talks for eight hours overnight on Motzei Shabbos, ending at 6:30 a.m Sunday morning and were set to meet again on Sunday night to reach a final agreement on a unity government.
However, the meeting was canceled, reportedly due to disagreements about ministerial positions and a new government is unlikely to be formed before next week. Blue and White reportedly insisted on receiving the Health Ministry but Netanyahu refused to remove MK Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) from his position. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) is also expected to retain his position.
There are conflicting reports about whether Blue and White conceded on receiving the Health Ministry. Other positions under dispute are Justice Minister, Knesset Speaker and Foreign Minister.
Also, the Yamina party is reportedly disgruntled due to the large amount of ministerial positions being allocated to the 17-member Blue and White party – 15 – the same number as the 58-member right-wing bloc, which means that Yamina, which now holds three ministries – transportation, education and defense – will receive only one lesser position.
Yamina officials said that “Netanyahu is basically forming a left-wing government. He sold everything that is important to the ideological right to Blue and White.”
Yamina is especially perturbed that Blue and White is receiving the Justice Ministry as reforming the left-leaning Supreme Court is a major focus of the party. On Monday, Yamina MKs sent Netanyahu an open letter demanding clarification of whether he will uphold right-wing values such as sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, development of settlements, reforming the Justice Ministry, reducing illegal construction by Arabs, sending illegal infiltrators back to their home countries and other issues.
MK Ayelet Shaked said in an interview with Arutz Sheva on Monday: “Other issues that we wanted to influence are being left in the hands of the Chareidim. During the election campaign, I said that if Shas receives more seats than us, we would not be able to claim the Religious Affairs Ministry, and that’s what happened. We’re seeing all the things that are important to us, such as the settlement issue, the judiciary, Bedouin settlement in the Negev, the Kaminitz Law, and more, being handed over to the left.”
Blue & White officially split up on Sunday with the approval of the Knesset Arrangements Committee and unlike the rumors that the Blue & White name will be retained by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon’s Telem party, the name now officially belongs to new Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz and the 15 MKs of his Israel Resilience party.
The 13 MKs of Yesh Atid and three MKs from Telem have merged into one party named Yesh Atid-Telem.
Two other Telem MKs, Yoaz Hendel and Tzvi Hauser, both former members of Likud and considered the most right-wing of the party, have broken off to form a new party of two called Derech Eretz. Derech Eretz will officially merge with Israel Resilience to form a 17-MK party called Blue and White. Blue & White will be part of the coalition and Yesh Atid-Telem will remain in the opposition along with the Arab Joint List, MK Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, and Meretz.
Gesher chairman MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, who broke off from the Labor-Meretz-Gesher merger and is now an independent party of one will also be joining the coalition. And Labor chairman Amir Peretz, along with MK Itzik Shmueli, who dissolved their merger with Meretz, are also said to be joining the coalition. MK Merav Michaeli, the third Labor MK, said she would not join a government led by Netanayahu and will remain in the opposition.
And then there are the “rebels” – interestingly both by groundbreaking female politicians from Blue and White and Yesh Atid.
Blue and White MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh, the first Druze woman to serve in the Knesset, refused to join a coalition led by Netanyahu due to the National-State Law passed under his leadership. And Yesh Atid MK Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first Ethiopian-Israeli woman to serve in the Knesset disagreed with chairman Yair Lapid’s refusal to join a national-unity government.
Conveniently, the two switched parties, with Gadeer-Mreeh leaving Blue and White to join Yesh Atid and Tamano-Shata leaving Yesh Atid to join Israel Resilience. The Knesset Arrangements Committee approved the switch and neither MK was sanctioned for switching parties.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)