Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s staff is still not preparing for the likely transition to Yamina leader Naftali Bennett for the premiership.
The Knesset vote establishing the new government under Bennett’s leadership is expected to take place on Wednesday.
However, when asked about the transition process, a source in the Prime Minister’s Office referred to Netanyahu’s remarks in Sunday’s Likud faction meeting. The implication was that Netanyahu will fight to the very end, and the office is not yet getting ready to prepare their replacements.
Netanyahu called on lawmakers in Yamina and New Hope, another right-wing party in the likely coalition, to “vote against this government that endangers the State of Israel. It is late, but not too late. Do the right thing and vote against the left-wing government.”
Someone who supports a left-wing government is not right-wing, he added.
“The entire nationalist camp completely opposes a dangerous left-wing government,” said Netanyahu. “It is right and responsible to protest in every legal and democratic way.”
Netanyahu also noted that Likud “condemns incitement and violence from any side, even if others were silent when the incitement against us was raging. Incitement is a call for violence…The principle needs to be clear: incitement to violence is out of bounds. At the same time, freedom of speech is not incitement.”
A source close to Bennett said on Sunday that “Likud people keep telling us they know they’ll knock us down no matter what we do. They’re completely positive Netanyahu will stay.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who is expected to be the next finance minister, said last week that he expects what “everyone saw happen in the Capitol in Washington to happen” in Jerusalem.
Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar called Liberman’s statement a wild exaggeration.
“There won’t be anything like what happened at the Capitol,” he told the Knesset Channel. “We will respectfully go to the opposition.”
Bennett has yet to appoint his close advisers and allies to positions within the Prime Minister’s Office, such as director-general, chief of staff, or cabinet secretary, so they have not yet requested transition meetings, said a source on Bennett’s team.
Among the aides who may take on senior roles in the Prime Minister’s Office under Bennett are his close adviser Tal Gan-Zvi, who has worked with him since 2013; Gil Bringer, a close aide of senior Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked; and Diaspora Affairs Ministry Director-General Dvir Kahane, who Bennett appointed to the role when he held the Diaspora portfolio.
“It’ll go very fast” before the vote, the source said. “There’s a lot in the air.”
If a Bennett-led government is voted in on Wednesday, the official transition will take place over 48 hours, after which the new government comes into power.
Like in every other government ministry, there is generally a public transition ceremony when there is a new prime minister. The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment if Netanyahu would participate in such an event.
A member of former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s staff remembered being asked to hand over all of her files as part of the transition but said that the Netanyahu appointee who replaced her in 2009 never contacted her.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.