Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced a new challenge in his efforts to form a government on Sunday, when Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Sephardi Haredi ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, said he would insist on a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office if Netanyahu gives one to Yamina head Naftali Bennett.
Shas won nine mandates, the third most seats in the March 23 election, behind Likud’s 30 and Yesh Atid’s 17. Bennett has spoken to both Netanyahu and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid about a rotation as prime minister, even though Yamina won just seven seats.
Deri ruled out joining a government that is not led by Netanyahu for the entire term without a rotation as prime minister. Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich has made a similar commitment.
“It is inconceivable that the leader of a party with only seven mandates will be prime minister,” Deri said in an interview with the Haredi radio station Kol Chai. “It is neither democratic, nor realistic. Bennett must rule out forming a government with the Left and tell all members of the right-wing bloc that he is with us.”
In a meeting with Deri last week, the prime minister put him in charge of persuading New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar to join a Netanyahu-led government. He said he had a preliminary talk with Sa’ar and was looking forward to speaking to him more.
“Gideon Sa’ar is a dear person with many abilities and a bright future ahead,” Deri said. “The prime minister made many mistakes with him. Sa’ar did not get what he deserved based on his political stature. But his voters don’t want a left-wing government.”
Sa’ar began acting as a member of the opposition to Netanyahu in the Knesset, writing Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and demanding the formation of key Knesset committees for parliamentary oversight over the government.
Netanyahu appointed Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar to head the powerful Knesset Arrangements Committee on Sunday morning.
The committee is responsible for allocating who sits where in the Knesset plenum and the representation of parties on temporary Knesset committees until a government is formed.
The Likud received the committee chairmanship, because President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu the mandate to form a government. The four-week mandate ends on May 4.