Israel’s parliament speaker has scheduled a vote for Sunday on a new government that would end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule, the longest in the country’s history.
“The debate and vote on the new government will take place Sunday… during a special session of parliament,” speaker Yariv Levin, a Netanyahu ally, said in a statement on Tuesday.
If the coalition of right-wing, left-wing, centrist and Arab parties wins the vote of confidence, it will be sworn in on the same day, marking the end of Netanyahu’s run as prime minister and his replacement by nationalist Naftali Bennett.
Last Wednesday, centrist Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid announced that he and Bennett, a former defence minister who heads the far-right Yamina party, had formed a broad governing alliance following an inconclusive March 23 election, Israel’s fourth in two years.
Under their deal, Bennett will serve first as prime minister, followed by Lapid.
Bennett had urged Levin to hold the Knesset vote this Wednesday and called on Netanyahu to “let go” and desist from any efforts to persuade members of the new coalition to defect and scupper its inauguration.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Jerusalem said this vote is “likely to go through”.
“That would mean a huge landmark in Israeli politics – the end of the period in office of Benjamin Netanyahu,” Fawcett said.
“If the change block gets the 61 votes it needs to get a full majority in the 120 seat Kensset, there is a new government in Israel, and Netanyahu is out,” he said, adding that Netanyahi has been “trying everything he can” to pressure right wing members if the coalition to support him.
Bitter recriminations within the Israeli right and far right prompted Israeli security services to issue a rare warning against incitement online, which Netanyahu’s opponents say was a warning to the prime minister.
Netanyahu has called the new coalition the “fraud of the century” while he has been trying to thwart the coalition by peeling off right-wing defectors uncomfortable with working with left-wing and Arab lawmakers (Palestinian citizens of Israel).
Israel held four elections in less than two years, the most recent in March.
Each time, voters were deeply polarised over whether Netanyahu should remain in office while facing allegations of corruption, for which he is now on trial.
An emergency government formed last year to address the coronavirus pandemic was mired in political infighting and collapsed in December.
Netanyahu tried and failed to form a government after the March elections before the mandate was given to Lapid.
The political transition, which could yet be derailed, comes amid heightened tensions following weeks of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in Jerusalem.
Israel launched an 11-day military assault on Gaza that left more than 250 Palestinians dead, including 66 children.