Lapid, Bennett surrender vice PM titles

Path is cleared to swear in new government after Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi leaders withdraw in battle over vice premier titles.

Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett agreed to give up the titles of vice premier, that had been promised to them in the coalition deal they reached with the Likud-Beytenu party.
This was the last of the issues that needed to be resolved before the coalition agreement could be signed.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Bennet and Lapid overnight Thursday, and the leaders agreed to surrender the titles "out of respect for the prime minister." The government was expected to be sworn in on Sunday.
 Likud-Beytenu on Thursday asked to meet with the two parties’ negotiating teams to notify them that, contrary to agreements reached in previous talks, Netanyahu no longer wants to appoint any deputies.
Likud Beytenu negotiator Moshe Leon told Channel 2 News on Thursday night that he was confident that an agreement would be signed on Friday.
“We’ve been talking about the issues for six weeks, and this topic [of vice premiers] only came up once. When it’s time to sign, they can’t just complain about this,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday at a Likud Beytenu faction meeting, Netanyahu said the job of building a coalition was nearly complete, and that the party got the most important portfolios – foreign and defense.
“These are the most important ministries, the areas of responsibility that let us manage the country,” he said.
Netanyahu also pointed to his party’s majority in the cabinet, without which, he said, its ministers could not promote its policies.
“The upcoming term will be one of the most difficult ever,” he explained.
“There are a number of challenges that are not getting enough public attention.”
The prime minister also called on Lapid to pass a responsible budget that would protect the economy in the face of international turmoil, and said he would give the new finance minister all the support he needed.
“I am sure we will do all we need within security, diplomatic and economic areas to bring good news to the State of Israel,” he concluded.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman added a bit of humor to the meeting, joking about “white smoke not only in the Vatican, but in Jerusalem, too.”
“There has been a lot of commentary in the media about political dealings. I hope we’re finished with this chapter, and next week the commentary will be about our work, not that,” he said.