Netanyahu presents new government to Peres

New gov't to be sworn in on Monday; Likud infighting over portfolios continues; new coalition plans extensive electoral reform.

Netanyahu and Peres 370 (photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Netanyahu and Peres 370
(photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presented the new government to President Shimon Peres on Saturday night, ahead of its swearing in at the Knesset on Monday.
“As you know, I formed a government.
You gave me the mission, and I accomplished it,” Netanyahu told the president.
“We are facing a decisive year in security, the economy and efforts to promote peace, as well as the desire of Israeli citizens to bring change.”
The prime minister said it was his mission and prayer that the government would bring good news in all areas to the citizens of Israel.
Peres congratulated Netanyahu for forming a coalition on time, and expressed hope that the new government0 would take the opportunity to solve problems in the fields the prime minister mentioned.
Acting Knesset Speaker Binyamin Ben- Eliezer said on Saturday night that Netanyahu had notified him of the coalition’s formation, and the government would officially be sworn in on Monday.
Shortly after Netanyahu informed Peres that he had formed a government, the White House released a statement congratulating the prime minister.
“The president congratulates the Israeli people, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the new members of the prime minister’s governing coalition on the successful formation of Israel’s new government,” the White House said. “President Obama looks forward to working closely with the prime minister and the new government to address the many challenges we face and advance our shared interest in peace and security.
“The United States places a high value on its deep and enduring bonds with Israel and the Israeli people,” the White House’s statement continued. “The president looks forward to further strengthening those bonds when he travels to Israel next week to meet with Israeli officials and to speak directly with the Israeli people.”
Netanyahu is expected to face bitter opposition within his Likud party from those who feel slighted by the positions they are expected to receive in the new government. Most current ministers are not expected to be promoted to more prestigious positions, while young MKs who did well in the party primary are unlikely to be made ministers at all.
While Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat will keep their jobs and outgoing Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon will become defense minister, others, such as Gilad Erdan and Silvan Shalom, expressed dissatisfaction with the portfolios they were offered.
Outgoing Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar is the leading candidate for interior minister, but Erdan is also a possibility, and MK Yariv Levin was asked to be the next coalition chairman, but has yet to accept the position. Former coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin is likely to be deputy foreign minister, at the insistence of former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who will return to his previous position if he is exonerated in his corruption trial.
Likud activists have asked to call a central committee meeting, expressing anger at the “disproportionate” number of posts the Yisrael Beytenu section of Likud Beytenu received – five portfolios (Foreign, Agriculture, Tourism, Immigration Absorption and Public Security) and a committee chairmanship for 11 MKs.
On Friday, the last day before Netanyahu’s deadline to form a government, Yesh Atid and the Bayit Yehudi signed coalition agreements.
The coalition agreements include commitments to enact reforms for which the parties campaigned in the recent election, foremost of which is a law to bring equality in the burden of national service. The bill will be written by a committee of MKs led by a member of Bayit Yehudi, brought to the cabinet for a vote within 45 of the government’s formation and passed by the Knesset before the 2013 budget.
Unlike Likud Beytenu’s agreement with Hatnua, the Yesh Atid deal only briefly mentions peace talks with the Palestinians, saying the government will immediately begin efforts to restart negotiations.
Bayit Yehudi’s agreement only says that party leader Naftali Bennett will be on the Ministerial Committee for Peace Talks, which will be led by Netanyahu, not soon-to-be Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. A Yesh Atid minister will also be on the panel.
The parties also agreed on farreaching electoral reforms, which should be passed by the end of the Knesset’s summer session, which is usually in July.
The changes include not allowing future governments to have more than 18 ministers and four deputy ministers, abolishing ministers without portfolio and raising the electoral threshold to enter the Knesset to 4 percent, from the current 2 percent.
In addition, the new law will instate constructive no-confidence votes, in which 65 MKs will have to vote in a new government to bring one down.
Another part of the electoral reform is no longer allowing MKs to take election funding with them if they move from one party to another, except in cases where there is a faction made up of several parties, like Likud Beytenu or the United Arab List-Ta’al.
The coalition agreement specifically mentions that the parties do not agree on the “Norwegian Law,” which would require an MK to resign from the Knesset upon being made a minister, further separating the legislative and executive branches and allowing more members of parties’ lists to have an influence. Should the sides be unable to reach an agreement on the “Norwegian Law,” the electoral reform will be passed without it.
As for housing, the current condition set for citizens to receive government- subsidized homes, which is years of marriage, will be canceled and replaced with employment conditions.
In addition, the Israel Lands Authority will remain part of the Construction and Housing Ministry, but outgoing welfare minister Moshe Kahlon will be its chairman, rather than the ministry’s head, Bayit Yehudi’s Uri Ariel.
The Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry will be disbanded, with all elements of public diplomacy becoming part of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Likud sources said MK Danny Danon was offered the position of deputy public diplomacy minister, but, despite indications that there will be no new ministers from the Likud, he said on Saturday night that he expects to be appointed minister, because he is ranked fifth on the party’s list.
The Diaspora Affairs and Jerusalem portfolios will go to Bennett, who will be responsible for Birthright and Masa programs, fighting anti-Semitism and developing Jerusalem.
As expected, Yesh Atid received the Finance, Education, Science and Technology, Welfare and Health and Science and Technology portfolios for party leader Yair Lapid and MKs Shai Piron, Yaakov Peri, Meir Cohen and Yael German, respectively.
Yesh Atid also received the deputy welfare minister position, to be filled by Mickey Levy, as well as chairmanship of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women, and the Committee for Public Petitions.
Yesh Atid MK Yoel Razbozov will be chairman of the Committee for Immigration and Absorption, which the party’s MK Dov Lipman said would hold meetings focused on the needs of immigrants from Englishspeaking countries.
Contrary to previous reports, Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah will not be deputy defense minister, and the position will go to a Likud MK.
In Bayit Yehudi, Bennett will be economy and trade minister, Uri Ariel construction and housing minister and Uri Orbach pensioners affairs minister. In addition, Eli Ben Dahan will become deputy religious services minister and another party MK, possibly Avraham Wortzman, will be deputy education minister.
Bayit Yehudi MKs Nissan Slomiansky and Ayelet Shaked both want to lead the powerful Knesset Finance Committee, and Shaked has refused a rotation in the position.