Bennett: I won't rule out sitting under Netanyahu in future

The Knesset may disperse on Monday, as the opposition has reportedly exhausted all attempts to form an alternative government without going to elections.

 Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Prime Minister Naftali  Bennett following the vote on the new coalition in the Knesset on June 13.  (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett following the vote on the new coalition in the Knesset on June 13.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

The 24th Knesset may disperse as early as Monday evening, exactly a week after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s dramatic announcement to that effect.

What does Bennet plan to do? 

While there are still a number of parliamentary hurdles to clear, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Friday that the negotiations to form an alternate government led by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu had been exhausted, leaving elections as the only remaining option.

Bennett’s political future is unclear. He met with his longtime political partner Shaked on Friday for the first time since Monday’s announcement, which he made while she was on an official visit to Morocco. The two are set to meet again on Sunday, presumably to discuss their political future.

In interviews on all three major television news outlets aired on Saturday evening, Bennett said that he would not announce his plans for the future until the Knesset officially disperses, but that his decision will be based on whether his remaining in politics would or would not contribute to healing the schism between Israel’s different sectors.

According to the coalition agreements, Bennett was meant to become interior minister, Shaked justice minister, and Sa’ar foreign minister. However, these changes require Knesset approval, and the coalition does not have a majority.

If Bennett decides to leave politics either permanently or temporarily, Shaked will probably take over the leadership of Yamina. If he decides to remain, however, she may choose to end the partnership and leave the party, which won only four seats in a poll published on Friday.

The vacating prime minister did not rule out joining a Netanyahu-led government. “Netanyahu style 2015 is ok,” but not if he does things that are unacceptable, Bennett said in an interview with Channel 12’s Dana Weiss.

 Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Can the “Defendant’s Law" pass?

Whether the Knesset disperses on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday will depend on the result of ongoing negotiations between coalition whip MK Boaz Toporovsky (Yesh Atid) and opposition whip MK Yariv Levin (Likud) over which bills will pass into law before the parliament shuts down.

The ministerial committee on legislation will vote on 39 bills on Sunday afternoon. Most notable is the controversial bill that will prevent an MK under criminal proceedings for offenses punishable by at least three years in prison from forming a government. The law, known as the “Defendant’s Law,” will apply to Netanyahu, who is standing trial for one count of bribery and three counts of fraud and breach of trust.

The law is not expected to pass, both because there is not enough time left to push it through the legislative process and because it may be struck down by the High Court of Justice due to its proximity to the election.

The coalition will also bring forward a law that will block a prime minister from serving more than eight straight years. While considered less controversial, the law is also not expected to pass.

The crucial question of election threshold

The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) party United Torah Judaism (UTJ) will bring forward a bill to lower the election threshold from 3.25% to 2%. Meretz MK Mossi Raz also expressed support for the bill. However, Lapid said in the past that he supported raising, not lowering, the threshold. Even if none of these or the other bills become law, if they pass their first reading before the Knesset falls, they will have “a foot in the door” and it will be easier to pass them in the next Knesset.

Coalition members also reached out to the opposition in a bid to vote together to extend the directive granting residency rights to Israelis living in West Bank settlements. The official reason Bennett and Lapid decided to disband the Knesset was in order to extend the legislation, which otherwise would have expired on June 30.

However, the automatic extension lasts only half a year, while the legislative extension would be for five years. But the opposition said they would not cooperate, presumably in order to trip up Lapid, who may be attempting to form a government in six months with the assistance of Arab parties who oppose the directive.

In other election news, Yisrael Beytenu won’t join a government with Netanyahu or with the haredi parties, party leader and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Channel 12’s Meet the Press on Saturday evening.

On the Left, while Labor head and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli said on Friday that her party would run alone, Meretz head and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said on Saturday that he supported a merger, arguing that Israel should have “one unified, Zionist, left-wing party.”