Elections over, Netanyahu embarks on coalition building
Prime Minister courts big election winner Lapid, as Likud coalition chair Ze'ev Elkin warns he won't be held hostage by smaller parties.
Having secured enough votes in Tuesday's elections to head the next government, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at once embarked on late night outreach to the leaders of the parties he is eyeing as future coalition partners. In a post-midnight flurry, he called Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, Aryeh Deri and Eli Yishai of Shas, and Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism.
The calls came after Netanyahu made a point of mentioning Lapid in his victory speech at the Likud headquarters on Tuesday night. Likud Beytenu performed less well than even the damning opinion polls had suggested, shrinking from 42 seats in the last Knesset to just 31 in the next.
Conversely, Yesh Atid exceeded expectations, pulling in 19 seats to become the second largest party. Labor trailed third with 15 seats. Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) party also underperformed on Tuesday night, scoring 11 seats as opposed to the 14 or 15 predicted by many polls.
Ze'ev Elkin of Likud, coalition chairman in the last Knesset, called Wednesday for a large government to counter any attempts by the smaller parties to make demands of the government in exchange for their support. "The larger the coalition, the more stable and extortion-free it will be," he said, referring to the habit of smaller parties .
Meanwhile, the Yesh Atid camp said Wednesday that they would not cooperate with Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich's bid to block another Netanyahu goverment, yet party #2 Rabbi Shai Piron warned the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi party Shas that Yesh Atid would not allow it to engage in blackmail the coalition in return for its support. Even so, Shas joint leader Ariel Attias announced Wednesday that his party would "sit with anyone", but intimated that there would be a price.