The Knesset plenum approved today the new unity government with a majority vote of 71 MKs. 23 MKs opposed. Later on Wednesday, Labor head Shelly Yachimovich will be sworn in as opposition leader instead on Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz, who was appointed vice prime minister.
The unity deal sent shockwaves through the political system, and caused a flurry of criticism among opposition MKs.
The move came as the Knesset was preparing to disperse for early elections, which were expected to be scheduled for September 4. Under the agreement, Kadima will join Netanyahu’s government and commit to supporting its policies through the end of its term in late 2013. Mofaz is expected to be appointed deputy prime minister, as well as minister without portfolio.
There were a few dramatic moments in the Knesset on Wednesday, as Netanyahu asked for a ten minute break to examine what clauses in the agreement between Likud and Kadima were not officially reported – following calls from the opposition. In this sense, Netanyahu has actually admitted that the understandings he reached with Mofaz were secret.
Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said: “I have seen everything, but nothing like this. Mofaz served under me when I was defense minister, he was a brave man. Later he was appointed defense minister, and was courageous. But now you will have to be braver when you look into the eyes of the Israeli people.” Because of Mofaz, Ben-Eliezer added, the public views the political system as “trash.”
Moreover, only 12 out of 28 Kadima MKs showed up to the meeting – mostly from the Mofaz camp. Kadima MK Robert Tibayev announced he will not take part in the vote. “We are entering the coalition with no discussion, with four clauses in the agreement,” he said.” I don’t think there has ever been a coalition deal with four clauses and nothing of essence.”
Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On said that “the prime minister was spooked by the settlers in the Likud Central Committee, and Mofaz panicked because of the polls that showed that his party is vaporizing.”
Her colleague Nitzan Horowitz quoted Mofaz’ attacks on Netanyahu. “What are the Israeli citizens supposed to understand from these statements?” he asked.