Bayit Yehudi: Finance fuels fire in coalition crisis

Education Ministry is not the only sticking point in negotiations over the allocation of portfolios, a Bayit Yehudi source reveals, saying that the party's demand for the Knesset Finance Committee has not been met.

March 12, 2013 19:59
4 minute read.
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett

Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)

A Bayit Yehudi source revealed Tuesday that the allocation of the Education Ministry was not the only sticking point in coalition negotiations but that the Knesset Finance Committee had also become a source of conflict.

This is a demand that the party made several days ago that has not been met. Bayit Yehudi sources said that "in order to meet our promise of economic reforms and to disperse the concentration, we need to have the ability to beak down barriers and the committee will give us the tool do so."

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The Bayit Yehudi MK likely nominated for the role is Nisan Slomiansky, while in Likud-Beytenu MK Faina  Kirschenbaum - who has been promised a ministry - is the likely candidate for the position, and in Yesh Atid Ofer Shelach. 

On Monday night coalition talks concluded with the sides agreed to having a 21 minister government, and a battle raging between Yesh Atid and Likud Beytenu over the Education Ministry.

Following three and a half hours of talks between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, MK Avigdor Liberman, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, the parties agreed there would be 20 ministers, not including Netanyahu or Liberman who will become Foreign Minister after his corruption trial, and eight deputy ministers.

Sources in the three parties are hopeful that the talks would end on Tuesday, so the coalition can be sworn in this week.

However, Likud Beytenu sources accused Lapid of drawing out talks until the Friday deadline, in order to pressure Netanyahu into giving Yesh Atid the ministries it wants.

Likud Beytenu will receive 11 portfolios, with seven for Likud and four for Yisrael Beytenu, Yesh Atid will get four or five, Bayit Yehudi will take three and Hatnua, two.

While most coalitions usually have the same ministerial index - the set proportion of ministers to MKs in each party - for all parties, this one will be more generous to Likud Beytenu, while the other parties will have the same index.

Yesh Atid will have four portfolios if they are willing to give up one for Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, which party sources indicated they would consider on Monday afternoon. If not, it is unclear if Mofaz will stay out of the government, leaving the coalition with 68 seats, or if he would accept a deputy minister position.

Meanwhile, Yesh Atid and Likud Beytenu are still at odds over the Education Ministry, in a battle of number twos - current Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is second on the Likud list, versus MK Shai Piron.

A senior Likud source said Monday night that the party insists on continuing to hold the portfolio.

"The Education Ministry under Gideon Sa'ar had great achievements in the last four years, and the prime minister is interest in the continued success of Israeli students, as we saw in international tests, where we reached the top ten," the source said.

Piron, former rabbi of Petah Tikva Yeshiva and the chairman of an educational NGO, has said that Lapid was able to convince him to enter politics by saying he could be the next Education Minister.

If Piron becomes Education Minister, Sa'ar is likely to get the Interior Ministry. If Sa'ar is Education Minister, Piron may get Welfare, and either MK Yael German or MK Meir Cohen, both of Yesh Atid, would take Interior.

Meanwhile, the Bayit Yehudi is trying to make up for the ministry it lost in the last days of negotiations by expanding the three it has left.

For example, Bennett will most likely receive the Public Diplomacy portfolio, in addition to Industry, Trade and Labor, and the Religious Services portfolio, which the Bayit Yehudi will also receive, will include conversion and other services not currently under the ministry's authority.

The Bayit Yehudi is also demanding that the Housing and Construction Ministry include the Israel Lands Authority, as it did in the past.

In January, Netanyahu promised outgoing Welfare Minister Moshe Kachlon, who did not run in the last election, the chairmanship of the ILA, which would become part of the Prime Minister's Office.

However, the Bayit Yehudi opposes the move, which the party says would render expected Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel powerless.

One option that was raised as an alternative to not installing Kachlon as ILA chairman is to create a "Settlement Ministry," which would take the remaining responsibilities of the Housing portfolio, plus the settlement department in the Negev and Galilee Department, as well as the authorities of the Jerusalem Ministry, which was supposed to be the Bayit Yehudi's fourth portfolio.

A Bayit Yehudi source said the party would only accept the Settlement Ministry proposal if Ariel is able to build in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria without approval from the Defense Ministry or Kachlon.

"The Likud Beytenu would never accept that, so they will have to get rid of Kachlon," the source said.

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