Likud rebellion delays Knesset swearing-in

Netanyahu was supposed to announce the list of his cabinet ministers at 6 p.m. Thursday evening and they were supposed to be sworn in later at night.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the nation on the coronavirus outbreak, March 19, 2020 (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the nation on the coronavirus outbreak, March 19, 2020
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
The swearing in of  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz's new government will be delayed until Sunday, Netanyahu and Gantz announced on Thursday evening.
The delay came due to the logjam of ministerial hopefuls in Likud.
Netanyahu was supposed to announce the list of his cabinet ministers at 6 p.m. Thursday evening and they were supposed to be sworn in later at night.
But Likud ministers complained about the portfolios they were offered by Netanyahu. They also complained that the head of the Likud's negotiating team, outgoing tourism minister Yariv Levin, did not leave the party enough portfolios after coalition deals with other factions in the Knesset.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and Deputy Defense Minister Avi Dichter, were not invited to meet with Netanyahu about their next roles, announced that they would boycott the vote of confidence in the government that had been set for late Thursday night.
"I guess I am not needed in the Knesset, so Shabbat shalom," Hanegbi wrote on social media.
Dichter said by not inviting him, Netanyahu was "spitting in the face of the 130,000 Likud members" who voted for him.
Likud ministers who have complained about what they were offered included Gila Gamliel, David Amsalem, Ze'ev Elkin, Nir Barkat and Yoav Galant.
"Those who flattered Netanyahu got jobs and those who are professionals and have done their job well have come up empty," a Likud minister was quoted as saying.
Netanyahu did promote two ministers considered very close to him. Outgoing Justice Minister Amir Ohana will be public security minister. Outgoing Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev will be transportation minister in the first half of the term and despite her poor English, foreign minister in the second half.
Gantz rescinded his resignation from his role as Knesset speaker after the vote on a new Knesset speaker and the swearing in of the government were delayed.
Gantz made history on Thursday, when he told MK Pnina Tamano-Shata that she will become the first Ethiopian-born minister in Israel's history.
Tamano-Shata, who will be minister of immigrant absorption, came to Israel in Operation Moses when she was three years old. Gantz took part in the  operation.
The highest-ranking woman in Blue and White, MK Miki Haimovich, will not be a minister at the start of the government. Gantz met with Haimovich on Thursday morning and offered her ministerial posts, but she told him she preferred to head the Knesset's Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee.
Haimovich, a former news anchor, has focused on environmental issues, but the Likud insisted on keeping the Environmental Protection portfolio because of the Likud's opposition to Haimovich's views.
Gantz appointed MK Alon Schuster as Agriculture Minister on Thursday morning. Schuster is a farmer from Kibbutz Mefalsim and former mayor of the Shaar Hanegev regional council.
MK Chili Tropper was appointed by Gantz as the minister of culture and sports in the upcoming government.
As expected, when Gantz met with MK Gabi Ashkenazi, he officially gave him the Foreign Affairs portfolio, and when meeting MK Avi Nisenkorn, he gave him the Justice Ministry.
Gantz gave the Science and Technology portfolio to MK Izhar Shai, a former hi-tech executive.
Gantz appointed MK Meirav Cohen as social equality minister. As part of her duties she will be in charge of protecting the rights of Holocaust survivors.
Cohen will replace the current minister in that office, Gila Gamliel.
MK Assaf Zamir will be tourism minister, MK Orit Farkash Hacohen strategic affairs minister and Omer Yankelevich minister of Diaspora affairs. MK Michael Biton will be a second minister in the Defense Ministry along with Gantz and will handle civilian issues.
Yankelevich is the first haredi (ultra-Orthodox) woman to be a minister.  
Bayit Yehudi leader Rafi Peretz abandoned the Yamina alliance of right-wing religious parties and decided to join the new government instead of heading to the opposition benches.
It originally appeared that Peretz would receive become minister of Jerusalem Affairs and National Projects, but Netanyahu backtracked on that promise.
As of Thursday evening it was still unclear what if any position Peretz would get, and even if he would end up in the government at all.
A spokesman declined to comment.
Peretz decision to split from his party caused consternation amongst the party, although its  leaders were somewhat reticent to strongly criticize him. Peretz told his colleagues that he disagreed with their decision not to enter the coalition and that in a time of emergency, it is essential to take part in a unity government.
With Peretz, Netanyahu's coalition will have 73 MKs. The remaining five Yamina MKs will be in the opposition.
Reports emerged that Peretz was trying to merge Bayit Yehudi into the Likud party which would then cover part of the religious party’s sizeable debts, although senior party members and activists could not confirm this.
Following Peretz’s decision, Smotrich disparagingly tweeted a picture of a Mitsubishi car keys in reference to the ministerial cars that ministers are chauffeured in.
He also wrote on Facebook that Netanyahu was humiliating Peretz and disrespecting the religious-Zionist community at the same time, by backtracking on his promise of the Jerusalem ministry, saying that after having treated Yamina poorly during the coalition negotiations he could have repaired the damage by giving Peretz a senior ministerial position.
“But Netanyahu so completely disregards the religious-Zionist community that is making Rabbi Rafi crawl all night and continues to humiliate him with the offer of some fake ministry for nothing affairs,” wrote the outgoing transportation minister.  
Eli Ben-Dahan, who served as a Bayit Yehudi MK from 2013 to the end of last government, strongly condemned Peretz’s decision however, describing it as a the latest in a long line of broken promises.
“Public representatives need to act with honor and respect agreements and pledges they make, Rabbi Rafi has not honored what he has committed to,” Ben Dahan told the Post.
Technically Peretz’s decision needs to be approved by the Bayit Yehudi central committee but there seems little chance he will convene it for this purpose.
It is possible that central committee members will appeal any failure to gain its approval to first the party court and then beyond to the state courts, but such a process looks unlikely to be successful.
Large numbers of central committee members have been furious with Peretz for months for refusing to allow a primary challenge to his leadership, refusing to allow primaries for the party list, and ejecting former MK Moti Yogev from the party list, amongst other perceived misdeeds.
On Thursday evening, Bennett, Smotrich and Shaked held a press conference where they further castigated Netanyahu, especially over what they claimed was the removal of clauses in the Likud’s coalition agreement with Blue and White to annex the settlements.
“Netanyahu promised time and again he would apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, it was the promise of the elections, but Gantz and Ashkenazi threatened Netanyahu and he capitulated and erased it from the foundational principles [of the coalition agreement],” said Bennett.
Bennett also attacked Netanyahu for what the failure to insist on reforms to the judicial system which Bennett and Yamina have strongly pushed.
“There was choice between Netanyahu and the right-wing bloc and Netanyahu chose Netanyahu,” said the Yamina leader.
The Likud flatly denied that the clause has been removed and said they would be going ahead with the annexation while Bennett would be sitting on the sidelines “with Lapid, Liberman, and Yazbek.”
Presumptive opposition leader Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) said the government was "broken and was being formed in a way that is broken." He said that what happened with the government was a farce, but he said he is glad the government was not formed on May 14, the anniversary of the founding of the state.
Meretz faction chairwoman Tamar Zandberg said "the formation of the government was being handled in a way that is as twisted as the government being formed."