Orbach hammers final nail into coalition's coffin

Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid Credit: Yonatan Sindel
Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid Credit: Yonatan Sindel

Nir Orbach's resignation from the government leaves two options: a right-wing nationalist government, or new elections with Yair Lapid as transition prime minister.

Instead of celebrating the first anniversary of forming his coalition, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett received the announcement from MK Nir Orbach today that he is quitting the coalition. He becomes the third Yamina MK to resign from the party since the government was sworn in last June. Bennett has lost his hold over a party, which anyway began with few Knesset seats. The coalition started out by losing Amichai Chikli, lost its Knesset majority when Idit Silman stepped down and now the resignation of Meir Orbach marks the end of the road, as Yamina MKs are not prepared to pay the political price for the coalition's continued existence.

Orbach did not hand Bennett an ultimatum and did not propose any options by which the government could continue to function but simply handed in his signed resignation and said that he is working to form a nationalist government in the current Knesset, while meanwhile suspending his planned bill to disperse the Knesset. Orbach's resignation followed a very tough meeting with Bennett, despite the long route they have traveled together. Predictions that Bennett might persuade Orbach to stay soon evaporated and Yamina put out an announcement that the party had "lost control of Orbach."

While Bennett has been prepared to pay a political price to serve as prime minister and even renege on some of his most significant election promises, he has found that one year later, he is almost alone. The senior members of his bureau have resigned one after the other, and other top members of the Yamina party have cut their losses, including as mentioned, Chikli, Silman and Alon Davidi. Yamina said that Orbach had agreed to stay until the end of June and the passing of the Judea and Samaria Law, to arrange the legal situation for Jewish settlers but sources close to Orbach say that he will remain for just one week.

Lapid must consider his future plans

A simple calculation shows that the opposition has 61 votes and the government coalition 59 including MKs Michael Biton (Blue & White), Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (Meretz), and Mazen Ghanaim (Ra'am) that are making difficulties in supporting the coalition. Biton is not voting with the coalition and Zoabi and Ghanaim oppose the Judea and Samaria Law. The coalition is no longer functioning, as shown when it withdrew all the legislation from the agenda for today and the coming days. Without support from the opposition, it does not have the majority required to govern. In such a situation, it has no right to continue existing.

So the ball is now in the court of Yair Lapid, the alternate and potential prime minister. Lapid must now decide if he wants to continue coaxing Zoabi and Ghanaim back into the coalition fold despite their opposition to the Judea and Samaria Law, or to continue shifting leftwards so that right-wing MKs will try to topple the government, making him prime minister of a transition government in the build-up to the elections. Lapid who has worked hard to keep Arab MKs onside, seems to have lost control of the process in recent weeks and the political choice he now is required to make is almost self-evident. Despite this, Yesh Atid claims that he is trying to lead to the resignation of Zoabi and Ghanaim and believe that this would pave the way for Orbach to return to the current coalition.

MKs on the right of the coalition will also need to rethink their next steps. MKs from Yamina and New Hope, backed by Orbach, will now have the opportunity to form an alternative right-wing government in the current Knesset. New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar said today that, "If heaven forbid a Netanyahu-Ben-Gvir government was formed, then the danger to the democratic regime would be clear and immediate," but the other members of his party are already weighing up their options.

Even in the Likud there is no consensus about forming a government in the current Knesset. But in talks between Orbach and right-wing opposition figures such a possibility is the preferred option. Orbach has been the last nail in Bennett's coffin, now it must be decided whether a right wing government will be formed or the Knesset will be dissolved and Lapid will become prime minister of a transition government.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 13, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid Credit: Yonatan Sindel
Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid Credit: Yonatan Sindel
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