Sa’ar closes door on a new coalition led by Netanyahu

Deals were offered to rebel MKs to quit * settler bill to return

 JUSTICE MINISTER Gideon Sa’ar addresses the Knesset plenum. He has promoted a bill to prevent incitement on social networks.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
JUSTICE MINISTER Gideon Sa’ar addresses the Knesset plenum. He has promoted a bill to prevent incitement on social networks.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israel took a step toward its fifth election in three and a half years on Tuesday, when Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar ruled out the formation of a new government in the current Knesset led by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

No new coalition

Sa’ar declined to respond to questions last week on whether he would bring his New Hope Party into a Netanyahu-led government. But after opposition and rebel coalition MKs defeated the West Bank emergency bill, Sa’ar told the three prime-time newscasts that he could not let Netanyahu return to power.

“My opposition to Netanyahu has strengthened,” Sa’ar said.

“What happened in the Knesset strengthened my view that they cannot be allowed to lead. I don’t see an ability to cooperate with the behavior I saw.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar

Without New Hope MKs, it would not be possible for Netanyahu to form a new government. If Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition continues to crumble, an election would be the only remaining alternative.

Political rebellion 

Signaling a possible future rebellion, Yamina faction chairman Nir Orbach told rebel Ra’am (United Arab List) Party MK Mazen Ghanaim that the “experiment [with Ra’am] had failed.”

 Yamina MK Idit Silman at the Knesset, April 25, 2022.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Yamina MK Idit Silman at the Knesset, April 25, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Orbach later told Bennett that he lost faith in his government, and was considering leaving the Knesset. The Likud has offered Orbach a cabinet post if he would bring down Bennett.

Sa’ar said he would give the government another chance to pass the bill after Ghanaim and Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi voted against it, and the other Ra’am MKs did not vote. The bill fell 58-52, thereby stripping more than 450,000 settlers who live in West Bank settlements of many of the rights granted to Israelis living within sovereign Israel.

Those rights remain in place until the end of June, giving the coalition less than four weeks to secure enough votes to pass the legislation that has been renewed every five years since 1967.

The absence of the directive essentially disconnects Judea and Samaria from sovereign Israel.

“Ra’am and Meretz MKs put the government in an intolerable position,” Sa’ar said. “I will bring it again to the Knesset to enable the passage of the bill, and discipline must be enforced. Ra’am isn’t acting like a party in the coalition, and it will pay the price.”

Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid called on Rinawie Zoabi and Ghanaim to resign from the Knesset at Democrat TV’s Free Press Conference in Jaffa on Tuesday.

“Such people need to make decisions,” Lapid said. “Whoever cannot live with the coalition should leave. Whoever can, should be obligated by its decisions. This is true for every party and every MK in the coalition.”

Meretz leader Nitzan Horovitz added without mentioning Rinawie Zoabi by name that “whoever cannot withstand the difficulties can leave their post.” He said he was working hard to keep the current coalition together to avoid an election, and that he believes he will succeed.

Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas said he believes the current coalition will continue. He has been trying to persuade Ghanaim to leave the Knesset, and is working on a package for him. Abbas was told that none of the party’s bills would be brought to a vote until it is passed. Rinawie Zoabi told Channel 13 that she had not yet decided whether to resign.

Punishing Silman

Punitive steps against former coalition chairwoman Idit Silman are being considered for her vote against the appointment of Yamina MK Matan Kahana as religious services minister, and her efforts against the West Bank emergency bill.

Silman cast the deciding vote against Kahana’s appointment late Monday night, in a vote that ended in a 55-55 tie. Yamina is divided on what steps to take.

One possibility is removing her from the chairmanship of the Knesset Health Committee, and another is asking the Knesset House Committee to formally declare her a defector. With that designation, she would not be able to run for the next Knesset with Likud or the Religious Zionist Party, or be appointed a minister in the current Knesset if a new government is formed by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Silman proved with her actions that she does not see herself as part of the Yamina faction, and I believe there will be consequences in the future.”

Yamina MK Matan Kahana

Kahana, who was an F-16 pilot in the air force, called the vote against his appointment “a small hit on the wing.”

Netanyahu tweeted “Silman, you’re a champ.” She was also praised by rebel MK Amichai Chikli.

The vote was turned into a vote of confidence in the government by the coalition, in an effort to ensure coalition discipline and to prove Silman’s lack of loyalty.

Kahana quit the cabinet and returned to the Knesset last month via the Norwegian Law, in an effort to help Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the parliament. He was appointed deputy minister of religious services to keep on running his ministry.

The cabinet can appoint a deputy minister without Knesset approval, but a ministerial appointment must be approved in the parliament, where the coalition lacks a majority if Silman votes against it.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.