Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on his way to leading the opposition, a top Likud MK said Monday night, hours after the ruling party faced a stinging defeat in the vote on appointing the heads of a key Knesset committee.
Likud’s Miki Zohar told the first meeting of the Arrangements Committee he understands losing the vote means the Likud is on its way to the opposition. When asked by MK Ahmed Tibi from the Arab Joint List party asked who would serve as leader of the opposition, Zohar answered “Benjamin Netanyahu.”
— Gil Hoffman (@Gil_Hoffman) April 19, 2021
“We understand and are internalizing that we are heading to the opposition,” Zohar said. “You think we don’t know what the opposition is like? We do. You need me to remind you of the days of [Menachem] Begin before he came to power?”
“We will go with our heads held high.”
At the last minute, Netanyahu’s rivals gained control of the Knesset Arrangements Committee – which appoints MKs in parliamentary roles and is especially powerful during an ongoing deadlock — thanks to a vote by the Islamist Ra’am (United Arab List) party which pretended to abstain until the last second.
Leader of the anti-Netanyahu bloc Yair Lapid held a meeting earlier in the day with Ra’am head Mansour Abbas, offering the latter a spot on the Knesset Finance Committee, the chance to lead a committee on fighting violence in the Arab sector as well as a deputy Knesset speaker post.
“I am thankful to my partners,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “The victory in the vote on the Arrangements Committee is another step on the way to a unity government in Israel.”
Abbas had earlier been courted by Netanyahu in his own efforts to shore up a 61-seat majority needed to form a government, but his main coalition partner, the rightwing Betzalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party, vowed that no Israeli government would ever be formed with the help of an Islamist party.
Some reports have said that Netanyahu has already indicated to President Reuven Rivlin he is giving up efforts to form a coalition. He has 15 days left to form a coalition before the mandate passes to Lapid’s bloc.