Netanyahu backs off from presenting gov’t this week

President Isaac Herzog will award Benjamin Netanyahu the mandate to form a government on Sunday.

 Newly elected Israeli president  Isaac Herzog with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli pariament on the day of the presidential elections,  in Jerusalem, June 2, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Newly elected Israeli president Isaac Herzog with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli pariament on the day of the presidential elections, in Jerusalem, June 2, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu had hoped to present his new government on Tuesday when the 25th Knesset is sworn in. However, it appears that coalition negotiations will force that goal to be delayed, sources told Reshet Bet Saturday night.

The six parties or factions recommending that Netanyahu receive the mandate were Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ), the Religious Zionist Party (RZP), Otzma Yehudit and Noam, the last three of which ran in the elections together. However, during their meetings with the Likud’s coalition representatives, demands have emerged that will likely drag out the negotiations.

Either Religious Zionist Party Chairman Bezalel Smotrich or Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri will likely become the next finance minister, according to most reports about the ongoing coalition negotiations.

While the reports have not been confirmed or corroborated, the two ministerial positions considered most important are the Finance and Defense ministries, and Smotrich and Deri are potential candidates for either position.

However, the chances are higher that one of them will receive the Finance portfolio, according to most reporters, since neither served a significant time in the IDF or has extensive defense experience, while the Likud has MK Yoav Gallant, a retired major-general and at one time the preferred candidate for IDF chief of staff over current Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

 President Isaac Herzog meets with Israel's political parties to hear their recommendations for prime minister, November 10, 2022. (credit: OREN BEN HAKOON/POOL) President Isaac Herzog meets with Israel's political parties to hear their recommendations for prime minister, November 10, 2022. (credit: OREN BEN HAKOON/POOL)

President Isaac Herzog will be presenting Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu with the mandate to form a new government on Sunday he announced on Friday afternoon, following the conclusion of his consultations with representatives of all parties entering the 25th Knesset.

AT THE END of the meetings, which began on Wednesday and concluded on Friday morning, 64 members of the Knesset recommended Netanyahu for prime minister and 28 recommended Yesh Atid leader and current Prime Minister Yair Lapid. The remaining 28 Knesset members did not recommend that the mandate be given to any candidate.

Following the consultations, Netanyahu’s chief of staff was asked to summon the Likud leader to officially accept the task of forming the government from the president on Sunday.

What happens when Herzog awards Netanyahu the mandate?

From the moment Herzog assigns Netanyahu the mandate, he will have 28 days to form a new government. In a situation where an extension of the process is required, the president has the authority to grant him an additional 14 days.

Just two parties recommended that the mandate be given to Lapid – Yesh Atid and Labor.

Meanwhile, the National Unity Party, Yisrael Beytenu, Ra’am and Hadash-Ta’al all refrained from making a recommendation.

Following Herzog’s announcement that he would be rewarding Netanyahu with the mandate, Lapid invited the heads of the future opposition parties, except for Hadash-Ta’al, to a meeting with him early this week.

Despite not being invited to participate in the meeting with the rest of the opposition party leaders, Ta’al chair Ahmad Tibi will hold a private meeting with Lapid at some point next week.

Maariv reported on Saturday evening that the full demands of UTJ include the Construction and Housing Ministry, the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry and the Social Equality and Pensioners Ministry, as well as a deputy minister in the Finance Ministry, chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee and the Knesset Special Committee for Public Petitions.

Shas is expected to receive five ministerial positions, which will likely include the Interior Ministry and the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, Negev and Galilee. Shas and RZP are in a bitter fight over the Religious Affairs Ministry, Deri was overheard saying last week.

Religious parties demand doubling of yeshiva budget

UTJ, SHAS and RZP also demanded that the budget for full time kollel students be raised to NIS 1,318 and for yeshiva students to NIS 750 per month, almost doubling the current stipend, Walla reported on Friday.

This will increase the current budget from NIS 1.3 billion a year to NIS 2.3 to 2.5 billion a year. The Likud agreed in principle to the demand, but the requested increase will not move forward before both the approval of the next budget in the 25th Knesset and the swearing in of the new government.

Even compared to the highest budget during the government led by Netanyahu in 2015, this will constitute an increase of NIS 450 per full time kollel students and NIS 270 per yeshiva student.

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett said that the requested budget increase is “a grave economic and moral error that will harm ultra-Orthodox youth, the public’s attitude to the religious, and the future of Israel.”

Outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman criticized the religious parties’ demand, saying that “the order of priorities is reversed. As finance minister, I increased the income of IDF soldiers by 50%, while the emerging government will double the income of full-time kollel students – and that’s the whole story,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

“Even from the opposition, we will work for those who serve in the IDF, serve in the reserves, work and pay taxes.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz wrote in his weekly post on Facebook on Friday that he would fight the incoming coalition’s plan to pass an Override Clause [which would empower the Knesset to overturn a Supreme Court ruling] – but will not view the coalition as the enemy.

“I hope that Netanyahu won’t allow this [Override Clause, but] I am not sure it is within his control. His personal matters will overcome what is good for the state, and therefore he will be held hostage by his extreme and inexperienced partners,” Gantz wrote.

“There were those who tried to lead this election to a tie, there were those who thought that the ‘biggest party’ approach would lead to this,” he said, critiquing Lapid.

“We will not hold grudges – we will do everything, we will cooperate and talk to everyone, and we will be in every place to safeguard Israel’s safety, democracy and society,” Gantz said.