In a coup to Netanyahu, Arab deputies help the anti-Bibi bloc win control of the Knesset

Netanyahu’s opponents managed to pass his proposal for control over the powerful Knesset Arrangements Committee, which runs the Knesset until a government is formed, thanks to the support of the Ra’am Party (United Arab List) led by MK Mansour Abbas.

The Yesh Atid faction chairman Meir Cohen’s proposal was approved by 60 votes to 51. Party sources said his victory came after a successful meeting early Monday between its leader, Yair Lapid, and Abbas.

“I am grateful to my partners,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “The victory in the Settlement Committee vote is another step on the road to a unity government in Israel.”

In exchange for his support, Lapid offered Ra’am a place on the Knesset Finance Committee, the chairmanship of a committee on fighting violence in the Arab sector, and a post as deputy Knesset spokesperson. But in an interview with Channel 12, Abbas said the posts did not influence his decision.

“We wanted to maintain our role by maintaining the balance of power in the Knesset and show that we were not in anyone’s pocket,” Abbas said, adding that he was also angered by the constant attacks on him by the leader of the Religious Zionist Party Bezalel Smotrich. , a key member of the Netanyahu bloc.

Yesh Atid officials said their first goal would be to vote for Cohen to replace Knesset Chairman Yariv Levin, who is Netanyahu’s closest deputy. The Lapid bloc majority on the committee could help him advance anti-Netanyahu legislation, including a bill that would prevent a candidate who is under criminal indictment from forming a government.

The Arrangements Committee will decide the composition of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the temporary Finance Committee, which oversee Netanyahu and his government. It will also appoint the deputies of the president of the Knesset, which will allow to start the process of electing a new president.

Netanyahu thought he would have a majority on the committee, due to an agreement between Likud and Yamina. Under the agreement, Yamina would receive a second seat on the committee at Likud’s expense, in exchange for her votes. But then Ra’am’s deputies, who were angered by Netanyahu’s deal with Yamina, entered the plenary and defeated the Likud proposal by a 60-58 vote. That led to a vote on the anti-Netanyahu bloc’s proposal, which Yamina’s seven MPs did not attend.

Yamina’s leader Naftali Bennett made the decision to “go with the left,” Netanyahu said in a closed-door meeting with members of United Torah Judaism Monday at the Knesset. He and Bennett held a tense meeting on Monday, the fifth since Netanyahu received a four-week term to form a government from President Reuven Rivlin two weeks ago.

“His feeling is that he has made a deal there,” a UTJ deputy told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting with Netanyahu.

Earlier, Netanyahu told his Likud faction that a Bennett-led government, whose party has seven seats, would be “absurd.”

“The moment of truth has come for Bennett,” Netanyahu said. “He promised not to sit under Lapid, with Meretz and Labor and with the support of the Joint List. That is why it must stop galloping towards a leftist government ”.

In the closed-door portion of the faction meeting, Netanyahu said that what his opponents call a unity government would only bring further government paralysis and would be “very bad for Israel.”

Abbas said Monday that he does not rule out enabling a Bennett-led government, just as he does not rule out enabling a Netanyahu-led government. Speaking with the emblem of Israel behind him, he said that it is wrong to call the MKs of his faction supporters of terror, as Smotrich has done.

Meanwhile, Smotrich asked Bennett to decide whether he will be with the right or with the left. He said he did not believe that Bennett really backed a government that would depend on Ra’am, who said he identifies with Israel’s enemies.

“As soon as it is clear where everyone is, I am sure that a right-wing government of the entire nationalist bloc can be formed,” Smotrich said at his faction meeting.

New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar told his faction that he would not allow Netanyahu to form a government, start a new Knesset career or a direct election for prime minister.

Sa’ar spoke for the first time since Netanyahu asked him to “come home to the Likud” in a speech in Ramat Gan on Friday.

“Our point of view has not changed,” Sa’ar said. “There are two alternatives: a right-wing government led by someone else [besides Netanyahu] or a unity government that will allow New Hope to maintain its worldview. Both options are better than new elections, either for the Knesset or just for the prime minister. “

In an effort to build a coalition, Lapid met with the heads of Yisrael Beytenu, Labor, Meretz and the Joint List on Monday, as well as Ra’am.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told his Blue and White faction that continued political uncertainty would be dangerous for Israel.

“If we don’t unite with each other, we won’t be strong against our enemies,” Gantz said.

Idan Zonshine and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.

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