Knesset members demand speedy formation of new government following terror attacks

Talks between Likud and Religious Zionist Party "back to square one".

 BEZALEL SMOTRICH comments to Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset inauguration, last Tuesday (photo credit: OLIVER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
BEZALEL SMOTRICH comments to Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset inauguration, last Tuesday
(photo credit: OLIVER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Party leaders and senior members of Knesset from the parties involved in Israel's coalition negotiations demanded in the wake of the bombings in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning that a government be formed immediately. 

"There is a fair offer for all of the partners and it is time to prove leadership and already today to announce the formation of a right-wing government led by MK Benjamin Netanyahu," Likud MK Yoav Kisch wrote. "The security situation requires this, Israel needs a right-wing government now."

The Likud later put out a statement by "senior members" calling on negotiation partners to show flexibility.

"At this sensitive security period, this is the time to put aside personal aspirations, unify and form a nationalist government that will bring back security to the people of Israel," the party said. "This is what the public expects, justifiably," it said.

Religious Zionist Party (RZP) chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich wrote on Twitter, "The murderous Arab terror is knocking at our door, a nationalist government needs to be formed immediately! I call on prime-minister-elect Netanyahu to convene the heads of parties and immediately form a right-wing government that will create real change and bring back security to the citizens of Israel."

Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir said at the site of the explosion at the entrance to the city, "I will not speak about politics but I will say one thing. We need to form a government as quickly as possible - the terror will not wait."

The left-wing NGO Darkenu took issue with the comments made by MKs of the incoming coalition.

"Disgrace. Members of the future coalition are dancing on the blood of the victims of the murderous terror attacks in Jerusalem in order to improve positions in the coalition negotiations," Darkenu CEO Yizhar Shai said. "Instead of joining ranks against a degenerate and cruel enemy, politicians are turning to cynically take advantage of the murderous terror attack in order to advance their agendas," Shai said.

Netanyahu visited some of the people who were injured in the attack at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem but did not mention the negotiations. He expressed his condolences to the family of 16-year-old Aryeh Shechopek, and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

"We will do everything in order to bring back security to Israel's citizens quickly," Netanyahu said. 

Religious Zionist Party CEO, Yehuda Vald, outlined the situation in the negotiations in a long Facebook post on Wednesday afternoon.

Vald claimed that there was almost no difference between RZP and the Likud regarding ministerial portfolios, but that there were essential ideological differences.

Vald demonstrated this by claiming that RZP "with great difficulty" agreed to surrender its demand for the Defense Ministry and instead receive the Finance Ministry, on condition that responsibility over the civil authorities in the West Bank move from the former to the latter. RZP wanted to "strengthen Jewish settlement, prevent a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria and prevent Palestinian takeover of open space," Vald wrote.

Netanyahu agreed, but two weeks later suddenly changed his mind and is now refusing, on the ground that it could harm relations with the Biden administration, Vald claimed.

This was an "ideological, principled disagreement that we cannot give up on," Vald wrote, adding that "this was the right-wing bloc's promise to its voters, and why should we not fulfill promises?"

"This government is an enormous opportunity but also a large danger. The significance of missing this opportunity is that the Right cannot really carry out its policies. If a fully right-wing government does not succeed then no one will, and this will cause large conceptual damage. This is why we are insisting to be in the places where we can influence and ensure that what needs to happen will [actually] happen," Vald explained.

Israeli coalition negotiation stalling

Vald's post came after RZP announced on Tuesday night that the Likud's position on forming a new governing Israeli coalition pushed negotiations back to square one.

"Likud has walked back on agreements reached last night and effectively returned the negotiations to the starting point," a Religious Zionist Party spokesperson said.

The Likud denied the Religious Zionist Party's allegations.

"It was settled with [Religious Zionist Party leader] Bezalel Smotrich that he will be the finance minister in a rotation agreement, as well as giving the party the Community Affairs and the Aliyah and Integration Ministry," the Likud said in a statement.

The party has claimed that Smotrich was trying to add new demands after an agreement was reached, including giving the Finance Ministry more power and authority, adding that Likud will not agree to such demands.

Likud leader and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu met with Bezalel Smotrich earlier on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve the crisis surrounding the formation of the government. 

Netanyahu's coalition on shaky ground

 Far-right Israeli lawmakers Itamar Ben Gvir, center, and Bezalel Smotrich, right, attend the swearing-in ceremony for the new Israeli parliament, at the Knesset, or parliament, in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (credit: MAYA ALLERUZZO/REUTERS) Far-right Israeli lawmakers Itamar Ben Gvir, center, and Bezalel Smotrich, right, attend the swearing-in ceremony for the new Israeli parliament, at the Knesset, or parliament, in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (credit: MAYA ALLERUZZO/REUTERS)

Further, Ben-Gvir reaffirmed his position on Tuesday afternoon that his six-seat party will not join the emerging government without getting the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee.

“We must invest there and without our ability to make it happen, we simply will not enter the government,” Ben-Gvir said Tuesday on the Knesset floor.

Maariv reported on Wednesday that the candidacy of former Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer for Foreign Ministry was officially off the table. Netanyahu's offering the position to Dermer reportedly angered Knesset members from the Likud, who expected a member of the party to receive the position.