Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu scored a significant political victory on Wednesday when sources in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's governing coalition gave up their efforts to enact term limits for prime ministers and prevent an MK under indictment from forming a government.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar had passed the term limit bill in all its readings in the Knesset plenum and in committees except one. The deadline for the final reading is next Monday.
But as changes to the Basic Law, both of the bills required the support of 61 MKs, which is nearly impossible in a coalition that has numbered 60 MKs since former coalition chairwoman Idit Silman defected to the opposition. The Joint List was willing to support both bills from the opposition, but the Likud decided to turn them into votes of confidence in the current government, and the Joint List did not agree to endorse the government, even in tactical votes to harm Netanyahu.
The decision outraged independent MK Eli Avidar, who was one of the leaders of the protests against Netanyahu outside the Prime Minister's Residence on Jerusalem's Balfour Street.
"All we are doing is conceding on our values and our promises to the voters and enabling Netanyahu to come back through the front door," Avidar wrote on Twitter. "We keep surrendering and in the end, we will be thrown out. It is time for the naive to wake up."
Meanwhile, Netanyahu faced a rebellion inside his Likud faction over a bill that will be brought to a vote on Monday that would give released IDF soldiers stipends of two-thirds of their tuition. With Netanyahu's backing, faction chairman Yariv Levin decided to oppose every significant bill brought by the coalition.
Likud MK Yoav Galant, who was OC Southern Command and nearly IDF chief of staff, Nir Barkat, Gila Gamliel, Avi Dichter, Miri Regev, Ophir Akunis and Keren Barak announced that they intend to vote for the bill.
"IDF soldiers are the iron wall that protects us from our enemies," Galant said. "I will continue to lead efforts to persuade my colleagues in the Likud faction to support the bill unanimously."
Defense Minister Benny Gantz called Netanyahu from Washington to protest the decision. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid posted a picture of Netanyahu as a soldier on social media, accusing him of "playing narrow and pathetic politics on the backs of the soldiers."
A group of IDF officers met with Levin on Wednesday and pleaded with him to support the bill. Levin said Likud supported giving scholarships of 100% of tuition. But changing the bill would require delaying it significantly after the Treasury budgeted NIS 100 million for the current version of the bill.
Without the Likud, the coalition would need the support of Ra'am (United Arab List) MKs to pass the bill. But Ra'am MK Mazen Ghanaim announced that his faction could not back a bill that enables Jewish students to get scholarships that Arabs would not receive.
Ra'am MKs were also upset on Wednesday that a proposed amendment with changes to the Nation-State Law was not put on the agenda of Sunday's Ministerial Committee on Legislation.