Wrangling over new Israeli government may scupper deal - as Herzog elected president

The new government was expected to be confirmed this morning, but there are now doubts negotiations will succeed


Last minute wrangling is delaying the formation of a new Israeli government, and may cause the anti-Bibi camp to miss its midnight deadline to achieve power.

After a series of four elections, Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents are the closest they have yet been to forming a government. In a highly-unusual twist, it the coalition has expected to clinch success by securing support of an Islamist party, Raam, led by Mansour Abbas.

The so-called change coalition, a left-to-right alliance led by Yair Lapid, was widely expected to announce an agreement today. Mr Lapid has promised “a unity government” that will “take care of all the citizens of Israel, including those who didn't vote for us, including those who won't be in the government.” 

He was hoping to announce this morning that he has the backing of a majority of Knesset members — but negotiations appear to be hitting delays, and there is now speculation that the various parties may not iron out internal differences by tonight’s cut-off. 

The will-they-won’t-they drama over the new government has overshadowed what would have otherwise been the big news story of the day: the election of Isaac Herzog as Israel’s next president. 

The former Labour Party leader and current Jewish Agency head was elected by 87 of the Knesset’s 120 members, meaning he defeated his opponent, social activist Miriam Peretz.

Mr Herzog, son of Israel’s sixth president Chaim Herzog, will take over from Reuven Rivlin this summer. 

Mr Rivlin told him: “Guarding the character of the State of Israel is a heavy responsibility. I have no doubt that you will carry it superbly.” He added: “I will be proud to pass it on to you.” 

In the coalition drama, if Mr Lapid does not succeed in forming a government by midnight, any 61 Knesset members can band together to form their own coalition but as this is unlikely it would probably mean a further election. 

The holdups are believed to be caused mostly by disagreements over appointments to Knesset committees and demands by Mr Abbas’ party to limit aspirations of right-wingers in the government. If they are resolved, the new government is expected to be headed by Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party.

Even though the centrist Mr Lapid was tasked with building the government, he offered Mr Bennett the PM post to convince him to shun Mr Netanyahu. Mr Bennett will serve as PM for two years while Mr Lapid will be Foreign Minister. Then, if the government is still intact, they will swap posts.

Avigdor Liberman of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party is expected to be Finance Minister. Other coalition parties, the right-leaning New Hope, and the left-leaning Labour and Meretz, will all control ministries. 





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