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Sunday’s Knesset vote to swear in new government: How it will unfold

Sunday will see the Knesset vote on establishing the 36th government of Israel, an eight-party coalition that will see prime minister-designate Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party rotate the premiership with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

If confirmed, the unlikely alliance of right-wing, left-wing, centrist and Islamist parties will remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power after 12 years, to be replaced by Bennett, and, two years later, Lapid.

The Knesset Arrangements Committee on Wednesday approved the session of parliament to install the coalition with proceedings set to begin Sunday at 4 p.m.

The first order of business will be to vote on a replacement for Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud, who will join his party in the opposition. He is expected to be replaced by Yesh Atid MK Miki Levy.

Bennett will then take to the podium and present the coalition’s designated prime minister, alternate prime minister, the guiding principles of their government, its composition, its ministers, the dates of any planned changes in roles, and the affinity of each of the ministers to either Bennett’s right-wing bloc or Lapid’s center-left bloc in the power-sharing government.

The affiliations determine who can fire each bloc’s member ministers. Bennett’s bloc includes his own Yamina party and that of New Hope, lead by MK Gideon Sa’ar. All other parties are in Lapid’s bloc.

Though Lapid is also entitled to address the plenum, it is not yet clear if he will. The prospective government leaders will have a limited time to present all of the information.

The leader of the largest party that is not part of the incoming government — Netanyahu, whose Likud has 30 seats — will then have the right to speak as well.

After that, all other parties in the Knesset will have nine minutes each for a representative to speak from the plenum. With Netanyahu set to be ousted after more than 12 years in power, as well as a stint as premier between 1996-1999, the speeches are likely to be heated. Likud and its allies accuse Bennet and Sa’ar, who both lead right-wing parties, of switching sides to enable the incoming government, which they accuse of being “leftist.”

Parliament will then vote on establishing the government, which is expected to be approved with the slimmest possible majority of 61 MKs out of the Knesset’s total of 120.

The prime minister, his alternate and their ministers will then declare their allegiance to their roles, committing to “maintain allegiance to the State of Israel and its laws, to faithfully fulfill my role as prime minister/a member of the government and to uphold Knesset resolutions.”

Following the session, members of the newly installed government will head to the President’s Residence for the traditional group photograph of ministers with outgoing President Reuven Rivlin, who will end his seven-year term on July 9.

Though the emerging coalition agreement has not yet been finally signed amid last-minute negotiations, the expectation is that the member parties will ink the deal. The prospective coalition party heads were said to be in agreement that the matter must be finalized by Thursday night as the coalition agreements must be made public by Friday.

The new government will include 28 ministers and six deputy ministers, making it one of the largest-ever cabinets, though smaller than the previous government. It will be the first Israeli government in which an Arab party, Ra’am, has joined as a coalition member.

In terms of top ministerial positions, under the emerging coalition agreements, Lapid will serve as foreign minister in the first two years of the government, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz will remain defense minister, and the Treasury will be held by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman. New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar will be justice minister, while Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked will be interior minister. Labor’s Merav Michaeli received the transportation portfolio and her fellow party member Omer Barlev will be public security minister. Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz will be appointed health minister, while fellow party member Tamar Zandberg will be environmental protection minister.

Source: Tal Schneider – TOI