No time to celebrate as Gantz joins Bibi
The big winners of the recent unity agreement between Likud and Benny Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael (Israel Resilience) -- besides the Israeli public -- are Shas and United Torah Judaism. Every other party in the right-wing bloc will pay a heavy price for Gantz’s entrance into the coalition. The Likud will likely surrender the justice, foreign, and communication ministries, and jettison plans for judicial reform. Legislation to allow prime minister Netanyahu to serve while on trial is also questionable. Senior MKs in the top ten slots of the Likud list such as Nir Barkat and Gideon Saar are expected to come away empty handed.
Netanyahu is expected to use diplomatic appointments as a sop for disappointed loyalists. Four coveted ambassadorial posts will be vacated in the near future, allowing Netanyahu to send senior Likud figures to Washington, the United Nations, Moscow, and London. Another idea gaining traction is a rotation agreement for Likud ministerial positions, making room for more senior MKs to share the loot.
Other right-wing parties will also suffer. Yamina, a party of six seats that currently holds three respectable portfolios—defense, education, and transportation—will have to surrender at least two of those posts. The finance or education portfolio will likely go to party leader Naftali Bennet, and a less important ministry appointment for one of his party partners, Rafi Peretz or Betzalel Smotrich.
Only the chareidi parties will retain their government posts. Shas will keep the interior and religious affairs portfolios, and perhaps the ministry of the development of the Negev and the Galilee. UTJ will retain the chairmanship of the finance committee but as of this writing it’s unclear whether Moshe Litzman will continue to lead the health ministry.
The division of ministries between the blocs isn’t final, but according to initial agreements, Israel Resilience will receive the defense and foreign ministries while the Likud will retain the finance ministry and the speakership of the Knesset. When Gantz becomes prime minister as part of the rotation agreement, the senior ministries will also rotate between the blocs.
In addition, Israel Resilience will hold the justice portfolio (subject to the Likud’s approval of their appointee), the economy portfolio, and communications portfolio. The Likud will receive the transportation and internal security portfolios.
Shas and UTJ quietly celebrated another achievement: the humiliation of Yisrael Beteynu’s Avigdor Lieberman. The man who was the chareidi parties’ best friend until he betrayed them will be irrelevant in the opposition. From the key figure in Israeli politics—the man who decided whether elections would be held or not—Lieberman will now be looking on from the outside. The decision of Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid to stand in opposition rather than join the government is also sweet news for the chareidi parties.
The Gantz- Netanyahu agreement calls for a unity government to last for three years, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister until September 2021, when Gantz will take over. Special legislation will guarantee wide powers to deputy prime minister Gantz, including the ability to assume all the prime minister’s duties if necessary. The parties have also agreed that no controversial bills will be advanced throughout 2020, while the draft law will be addressed by a joint committee with the aim of reaching a final compromise. As of this writing, it is believed that the new government will be sworn in before Pesach, possibly by Wednesday.
The path to unity wasn’t easy. One man who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to achieve unity was Shas chairman Aryeh Deri. According to sources within the party, Gantz told Deri that he would agree to a unity government if it was the only option to avoid fourth elections. Even, as happened, if Blue and White fell apart as a result.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 805)
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