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Israel’s Opposition Leader Fails to Get Knesset Backing for No-Confidence Motion
Israel's Opposition Leader Yair Lapid in his office at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on September 14, 2020. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel’s Opposition Leader Fails to Get Knesset Backing for No-Confidence Motion

Lack of support from Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party dooms Yair Lapid’s attempt to replace Netanyahu

Monday saw the opening of the Israeli legislature’s winter session, with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid leading an unsuccessful attempt to oust Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and replace the current government.

Lapid’s Yesh Atid-Telem parliamentary faction introduced a motion of constructive no-confidence requiring the approval of 61 members of the Knesset. However, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said that his party would not support it and the motion was voted down Monday night.

Blue and White currently hold 14 seats in the 120-member legislature.

Lapid said before introducing the motion that the Netanyahu administration is “unfit” to manage the country’s coronavirus crisis, calling anyone not voting for the measure a “coward.”

The requirement for a vote of no-confidence to be “constructive” has been in place since 2001 and the Basic Law was revised in 2014, allowing for parliament to withdraw confidence from a current government only if an alternative government is presented.

It’s a tool of the opposition to make the life of the coalition miserable. Lapid can use it to say, ‘Hey, look at Blue and White, they support the government. They are not ready to oust Netanyahu.’ It’s a political tool but its effectiveness is very, very low

Gideon Rahat, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, told The Media Line that the constructive no-confidence motion was more of a symbolic move.

“It’s a tool of the opposition to make the life of the coalition miserable,” Rahat said. “Lapid can use it to say, ‘Hey, look at Blue and White, they support the government. They are not ready to oust Netanyahu.’ It’s a political tool but its effectiveness is very, very low.”

The only time a no-confidence motion successfully passed was in March 1990, when the Labor Party ousted Likud prime minister Yitzhak Shamir in what is known as the “stinking maneuver,” only to see Shamir come back to power after the ultra-Orthodox parties withdrew their support for Labor.

“There are other ways to oust a government,” Rahat continued. “The Knesset can decide on early elections. The prime minister can decide to resign. There are other ways. But this type of no-confidence vote is very unlikely to work.”

David Newman, a professor in the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told The Media Line that Lapid has wanted to become prime minister for years, but he was pushed aside last year by Blue and White and Gantz.

Now with Gantz presenting the Likud with an ultimatum regarding the state budget, meaning he is less likely to become prime minister in November 2021 under the rotation agreement with Netanyahu, Lapid sees his chance to make a move as the leader of the opposition.

But, according to Newman, Lapid’s biggest obstacle to replacing the government is the Israeli voter.

“Even after the [anti-Netanyahu] demonstrations and even after the media hype around the demonstrations, you don’t have a change within the voting patterns of the Israeli public to completely change in a big way the balance that exists today,” the professor said.

Many Israelis disappointed with Netanyahu see the tens of thousands of demonstrators as “privileged middle-class Ashkenazi elites,” Newman said, adding that while the protests are good at attracting headlines, they will not necessarily translate into votes.

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