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'Lapid to give up demand for Foreign Ministry'
ByJPOST.COM STAFF
March 9, 2013 09:36
PM, Lapid meeting yields "significant progress"; Ch. 2 reports new gov't to be announced early next week, Lapid likely finance minister.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid addresses Conference of Presidents, Feb 12

Yair Lapid 370. (photo credit:Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Negotiations to form the new government coalition were expected to be completed early next week after Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid agreed to rescind his demand for the Foreign Ministry portfolio, sources involved in coalition talks told Channel 2 on Friday.

Lapid met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at his residence in Jerusalem on Friday in a meeting which achieved "meaningful progress in negotiations," according to both men.



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According to the Channel 2 report, Lapid will likely become finance minister in the next government, allowing Netanyahu to save the Foreign Ministry for Avigdor Liberman.

With Lapid taking the Finance Ministry, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett was likely to be the Labor Trade and Industry Minister with expanded authority to fight the concentration of wealth, or possibly Interior Minister, Channel 2 reported.

In addition, Bayit Yehudi MK Uri Ariel will likely serve as Construction and Housing Minister in the new government, the report added.

Yesh Atid's Yael German is likely to serve as the Interior Minister, while Shai Piron is expected to be appointed Social Affairs and Social Services Minister, Army Radio reported.

Netanyahu and Lapid also reportedly agreed that the number of ministers in the government would stand on 23 or 24.

Likud Beytenu has accepted Yesh Atid's plan for haredi draft into civil service, according to Likud MK Ofir Akunis, who is close to Netanyahu.

"Regarding equality in the national burden, there's definitely an agreement. We accepted the Yesh Atid plan, and unfortunately it appears like the haredim will not be a part of the next government," Akunis told Channel 10 on Friday.

A Yesh Atid source confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that Likud Beytenu's negotiating team accepted the detailed plan for haredi enlistment, which would require them to join the IDF or national service at age 18, following a five-year period in which the ultra-Orthodox would be encouraged to join the workforce.

Akunis also confirmed previous reports that Netanyahu intends to hold the Foreign Ministry portfolio for Liberman.

"The Likud was very fair and offered Lapid one of the senior portfolios - the Finance Ministry. Because of the massive deficit, the challenge is greater, and I'm certain that many Likud MKs would willingly take this portfolio," Akunis said.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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