Wednesday night, a coalition of parties from across the political spectrum struck an agreement to form a government, effectively ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as Prime Minister.
With less than an hour remaining before a midnight deadline, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid struck deals with his coalition partners in the so-called coalition for change. Otherwise, Israel likely pushed into its fifth round of elections since April 2019.
The coalition deal includes an Arab party for the first time in Israeli history.
Lapid called Rivlin with a few moments remaining to inform him that he had successfully assembled a government.
Rivlin congratulated Lapid and stated that he anticipates the Knesset convening immediately to vote to recognize the government.
Reuven Rivlin listens as Yair Lapid briefs him of his formation of a government.
As the clock ticked down on Lapid’s allowed time to form a government, pressure on his possible coalition partners to reach an agreement increased Wednesday.
Lapid met with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas and Yamina head Naftali Bennett Wednesday night in the negotiation headquarters in Kfar Maccabiah in Tel Aviv in a last-ditch effort to address lingering issues before midnight, when the mandate would have been restored to Rivlin.
The coalition agreement was contingent on the backing of eight parties representing a cross-section of the political spectrum, as each faction’s seats are required to garner the 61 parliamentarians required to create a majority administration.
Yesh Atid has seventeen seats; Benny Gantz’s Blue & White has eight; Labor, Yamina, and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu each have seven; Gideon Saar’s New Hope and Meretz under Nitzan Horowitz each have six; and Ra’am has four.
The primary remaining roadblock was Merav Michaeli’s appointment to the committee to choose judges, which Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked demanded in order to join the new administration.
The two parties eventually struck an agreement after discussions lasted well into the night.
Bennett will serve as Prime Minister for the next two years on a rotating basis with Lapid, according to Yamina’s agreement with Yesh Atid.
Abbas had presented another potential impediment to the new government, but by Wednesday evening, his Islamist party had reportedly softened its conditions for support, apparently withdrawing its demands for a deputy ministerial position and the repeal of a law prohibiting illegal construction that disproportionately affects Israeli Arabs.
If Lapid failed to form a coalition by midnight, the full Knesset would have had three weeks to agree on a new candidate who could garner the backing of 61 members of parliament. If that fails, Israel would have faced its fifth general election since April 2019.