Likud begins process to replace Knesset speaker

Breakthrough in negotiations between the Likud and the Religious Zionist Party announced.

 Head of the Religious Zionist Party MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks next to Head of opposition Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with the opposition parties at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on June 28, 2021.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Head of the Religious Zionist Party MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks next to Head of opposition Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with the opposition parties at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on June 28, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Likud on Tuesday began the process of replacing Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy. The Religious Zionist Party (RZP) rescinded its refusal to support the move after a breakthrough in coalition negotiations with the Likud was reached late Monday.

The request to convene the plenum to replace Levy, a Yesh Atid MK, needs to have at least 61 signatures. On Tuesday, the Likud began to collect signatures from the incoming coalition members.

Talks between the Likud and United Torah Judaism, however, stalled this week. UTJ MKs said they would not support Levy’s replacement unless there is a “significant advancement” in the negotiations.

UTJ’s seven Knesset seats mean it has de facto veto power over the proposal to replace Levy, and it was unclear when the proposal would be formally put forward. At press time, the party’s MKs had not yet signed the request.

"When the request of 61 Knesset members arrives, I will examine it and convene the Knesset plenum according to the law and the Supreme Court ruling on the matter within a few days, subject to the plenum agenda."

Mickey Levy

Who will be the new Knesset speaker?

A new Knesset speaker, likely from the Likud, will give the incoming coalition control over the pace of legislation and enable it to rush through a number of laws before the government is sworn in.

These include a law that would enable Shas chairman Arye Deri to serve as a minister, despite his one-year suspended jail sentence in January for tax infractions, and changing a law regarding the Israel Police that would give National Security Minister-designate Itamar Ben-Gvir greater authority over it.

 Likud MK Yariv Levin seen after coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem on November 21, 2022.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Likud MK Yariv Levin seen after coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem on November 21, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The incoming coalition’s party leaders feared that Levy would attempt to delay the plenum’s vote on his replacement for as long as possible, but he said on Tuesday that he would not do so.

“I have great respect for the institution I chair, and an orderly transition of power is a supreme democratic value in my view,” Levy said at a conference at Reichman University.

“When the request of 61 Knesset members arrives, I will examine it and convene the Knesset plenum according to the law and the Supreme Court ruling on the matter within a few days, subject to the plenum agenda,” he said.

Late-night coalition breakthrough

In a joint statement at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the Likud and the RZP said an overnight meeting had brought the sides closer to reaching an agreement on most major issues.

The RZP said it had “agreed [on Monday night] to prime minister-designate [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s request to appoint a temporary Knesset speaker immediately,” according to reports.

Negotiations between the two parties resumed later in the day on Tuesday.

Likud sources have indicated that their candidate for the temporary position is MK Yariv Levin, who is No. 2 on the Likud list.

Levin is expected to receive the position of justice minister once the coalition is established and would likely resign as Knesset speaker when the coalition negotiations conclude.

He has “extensive experience in promoting legislation,” a Likud source said, adding that this would help ensure the passing of a law to enable Deri to become a minister.

Netanyahu was likely to request from President Isaac Herzog an additional two weeks to form a government, as he may not be able to conclude the negotiations before the initial 28 days run out on Sunday, KAN News reported Tuesday evening.