Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid says deal reached to form government to replace Netanyahu

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (File Photo)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (File Photo)

Tel Aviv [Israel], June 3 (ANI): Opposition leader Yair Lapid officially informed President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin late Wednesday night that a coalition deal has been formed to form a new government and is prepared to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I commit to you Mr. President, that this government will work to serve all the citizens of Israel including those who aren't members of it, will respect those who oppose it, and do everything in its power to unite all parts of Israeli society," Lapid told Rivlin at 11:35 pm, reported Jerusalem Post.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, Lapid and Ra'am (United Arab List) chairman Mansour Abbas signed an agreement at a meeting on Wednesday night at Ramat Gan's Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel, in the first coalition deal ever signed by an Arab party.

Abbas had added last-minute demands following multiple conversations with Netanyahu. After Netanyahu offered to cancel a law enforcing fines on illegal Arab building, Abbas demanded the same from the unity government being formed, reported Jerusalem Post.

The Southern Islamic Movement's Shura Council decided in Kfar Kassem to empower Abbas to make a final decision about whether to enter the coalition, based on his conversation with Bennett and Lapid.

"The decision was hard and there were several disputes but it was important to reach agreements," Abbas told reporters after singing the deal, reported Jerusalem Post.

Another coalition deal was signed with the New Hope Party. The deal guarantees splitting the role of the attorney-general, preventing Palestinian construction in Israeli controlled Area C of the West Bank and legalizing the usage of cannabis. The party received the Justice, Education, Construction and Communications portfolios.

Another dispute appeared to be on the way to a compromise after Bennett's number two in Yamina, MK Ayelet Shaked, accepted a rotation in the Judicial Selection Committee with Labor leader Merav Michaeli.

According to the compromise, Shaked would serve on the committee in the first half of the term, along with an MK from Labor, and Michaeli in the second half, along with an MK from New Hope, reported Jerusalem Post.

But Michaeli then demanded to go first in the rotation, which Shaked requested. One way of resolving the dispute that was discussed is a rotation of portfolios in the second half of the term, with Shaked becoming justice minister, New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar shifting from the Justice to the Foreign Affairs portfolio and Bennett moving from Prime Minister to Interior Minister and alternate Prime Minister when Lapid becomes Prime Minister. Michaeli could also be promoted in that scenario, reported Jerusalem Post.

Michaeli and Lapid met late Wednesday night just ahead of the deadline.

Lapid needed to tell President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin by Wednesday night at 11:59 that he can form a government.

Had he not done so, the mandate would have gone to the Knesset, where any MK had the opportunity to build a coalition with the support of 61 MKs, reported Jerusalem Post.

Lapid had wanted to inform Levin that he had formed a government during Wednesday's Knesset session, in order to make sure the Knesset speaker would schedule a vote of confidence in the new government and the swearing in of the new ministers by next week.

But final deals were not reached in time. It is expected that once Levin receives word from Lapid that a government is ready, he will insist on waiting as long as permitted by law in order to maximize pressure on Yamina MKs, which could end up being 12 days, reported Jerusalem Post. (ANI)