Yair Lapid is now the Prime Minister of Israel, albeit an interim one. He automatically assumed office when the Knesset voted to dissolve itself Thursday morning and call for new elections. The vote passed with 92 in favor, more than three quarters of the members of the Knesset. And the outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett informed the country Wednesday night that he was quitting politics and would not run again for the Knesset.
When the current coalition was formed, no one thought that it was possible. The right-wing Yamina party led by Bennett, together with two other ostensibly right-wing parties led by former members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, somehow managed to form a coalition with left-wing secular parties like Meretz and Labor. And the government only achieved the required majority of votes in the Knesset with the support of an Arab Party.
The outgoing government, however, somehow managed to pass a new state budget for Israel, something that had not happened for more than three years because of the country’s continued political deadlock. It did so just before the deadline came at the end of 2021. Failure to pass a budget would have, by law, cause the dissolution of the Knesset at that time. And it also succeeded in passing many financial reforms such as abolishing certain import duties.
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The coalition allowed for the leader of a small party with just 6 seats in the Knesset, Naftali Bennett, to become the Prime Minister. It also set up a rotating premiership in which Bennett would serve for two years followed by Yair Lapid, the leader of the largest party in the coalition Yesh Atid. Lapid served as foreign minister.
However, because of experiences from previous such rotations agreements, Lapid wisely required that a new be passed giving him the official title of co-premiere and mandating that he automatically become the prime minister should the government fall for any reason, with no need for a vote. This is why he is now the 14th person to serve as Prime Minister of Israel.
But he is only a “caretaker” premiere and will guide the country until a new government can be formed after the new elections. During that period of time, Yair Lapid and his ministers will only be authorized to run the government, but not pass new laws or make any real changes in the country.
This is how Benjamin Netanyahu continued to serve as Prime Minister from the beginning of 2019 through three different e elections until a government was finally established in April 2020. And Netanyahu served again in that capacity for the three months between the elections of 2021 and the time that he was officially ousted by the now outgoing coalition.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the coalition as it was dissolved. “They promised change, talked about healing, did an experiment – and the experiment failed,” he said.
In a dig at Naftali Bennett’s agreeing to form a government with both the Left and Arab parties Netanyahu added, “This is what happens when you take a right-wing fake with the far left, mix with the Muslim Brotherhood and the (Arab) Joint List.”
“This is exactly what the upcoming elections are about: Will a failed Lapid government be re-established here, dependent on the Muslim Brotherhood, jointly, supporters of terrorism, or a broad and robust national government headed by us that will restore pride, power and hope to Israel.”
Leader of the right-wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party Itamar Ben Gvir lived up to his extremist reputation and tweeted, “This evil government has finally fallen and gone home, now it’s the the Right’s turn to win!”
After assuming office, Yair Lapid took a trip to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. His father, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, who was also a politician and a cabinet minister, was a Holocaust survivor. Lapid said that during his visit there, “I promised my late father that I will always keep Israel strong and capable of defending itself and protecting its children.”
The new Knesset elections will be held on November 1, a little more than 18 months after the previous elections were held. They will be the 5th round of general elections to be held in Israel in roughly a 4 and a half year period. Israel’s coalition government that just dissolved lasted for a little over one year. But that was longer than the government it replaced.
After the first round of elections were held in March of 2019, no one was able to form a government with a majority support in the Knesset and so another round of votes was held the following September. After another deadlock, a third round of elections was held in March 2020. But that time, because of the Covid crisis, some of the politicians set aside their differences and formed a new government under Benjamin Netanyahu. Unfortunately, that government lasted just seven months before it too was forced to disband and call for new elections.
If there is a repeat of that situation then Yair Lapid could be the caretaker prime minister of Israel for more than a year. And the current polls indicate that Israel could be facing a similar deadlock in the new elections.