First government formation bill passes first Knesset vote

Lapid challenges coalition to limit itself to 18 ministers

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid participates in a discussion on the government formation bill, April 2020. (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid participates in a discussion on the government formation bill, April 2020.
The new government that will be led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz passed its first test on Thursday when the first in a series of bills needed to facilitate building a coalition passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum.
The bill was advanced by a vote of 62 to 37 with no abstentions. Gantz voted in favor, while Netanyahu and Yamina MKs were noticeably absent.
In his speech to the plenum, Yesh Atid-Telem head Yair Lapid, who will be opposition leader, addressed what he called the economic mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis and the formation of the fifth Netanyahu government:
“I want to suggest something to Netanyahu and Gantz. Announce that you’re reducing the size of the government to 18 ministers and we will remove all our amendments to the law," Lapid said. "Create a real emergency government. 18 ministers. Not only won’t we delay you, we’ll help you.”
Throughout the day, MKs from Blue and White sparred with their former colleagues from Yesh Atid-Telem, whose MKs took turns reading Blue and White MKs their own past speeches criticizing Netanyahu.
Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg, who formally proposed the bills, said the legislation would facilitate the formation of a national unity government and prevent another unnecessary election.
Telem leader Moshe Ya'alon said the bills would lead to "a government of immunity and corruption, and those voting for it should be ashamed.”
The votes took place after Gantz, in his new role as Knesset Speaker, approved a plan for all 120 MKs to vote in the plenum, despite the coronavirus. The MKs will be spread out into the visitors and press galleries for votes.
At least two more bills will have to be passed before the government can be formed. The three bills could take until as late as May 7 to pass.
One bill that Likud and Blue and White decided to give up on before the government's formation would allow five Blue and White ministers to quit the Knesset and be replaced by the next Gantz loyalists on the party’s list, passing over candidates from Yesh Atid and Telem.
The decision to wait with the bill was made after legal advisers told Gantz that the Supreme Court would disqualify it. Blue and White faction chairman Avi Nissenkorn said the bill would be passed later.
Among the candidates who could become MKs or passed over include moderate religious-Zionist activist Tehila Friedman – who left Yesh Atid after Blue and White split – and attorney Michal Cotler-Wunsh, the daughter of former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. Cotler-Wunsh said the question of whether she would remain in Telem or leave to enter the Knesset was irrelevant, but that she has actively supported a unity government from the outset.
"I joined Blue and White because of its commitment to national reconciliation," Cotler-Wunsh said. "If that’s what Blue and White was as a project, then skipping over your partners from five minutes ago would not be right. We also said the law is the law, so the law can’t be changed in motion – and not retroactively and not personally."