Likud sources predicted on Wednesday that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government would soon be toppled with the help of his former aide and friend MK Nir Orbach.
Orbach has been offered a reserved slot on the Likud list and to be a minister in a Likud-led government. He is expected to vote to dissolve the Knesset next Wednesday, a move that could lead to an early election as soon as October 25.
Orbach spent the day vacationing in the North with his family on Wednesday and did not attend votes in the Knesset. However, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition party and its allies succeeded in defeating the coalition in Knesset votes on two bills on Wednesday.
Legislation sponsored by Shas MK Moshe Arbel stopping Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel’s kosher phones reform plan passed in a preliminary reading by 57-43. Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) politicians savored the victory. United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni said it was proof that the government, and Hendel in particular, do not have divine assistance.
“A communications minister who does not cross the electoral threshold got what was coming to him when Shas’s emergency telephone bill passed,” Shas leader Arye Deri said. “Get out of our lives! The end of your disconnected authoritarian government is staring at you from the results of the vote.”
The wide margin of victory was due to Meretz and Ra’am (United Arab List) MKs inadvertently voting in favor of the bill. Meretz faction head Michal Rozin called out “in favor” during the vote, which confused MKs near her.
The second bill, on taxation, sponsored by Likud MK Galit Distal Atbaryan passed by 51-50.
But in good news for the coalition, a dispute over an agricultural reform plan was resolved.
Rebel MK Michael Biton (Blue and White) came to the Knesset in a T-shirt and sandals and did not vote. Rebel MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi voted with the opposition.
Acting coalition chairman Boaz Toporovsky downplayed the defeats on Twitter. He said that despite predictions of nothing but losses, the coalition won nine times on Wednesday and lost just twice.
“This is a successful day for the coalition,” he said. “This coalition is strong, and we will continue fighting for it.”