Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began working on a coalition without haredi
parties on Sunday, breaking the news to Shas and then negotiating with Bayit
One day after Netanyahu accused Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi of
boycotting an entire population group, which he said was unacceptable, he
admitted to Shas the unlikelihood of forming a coalition with the haredi
The Shas leadership triumvirate – former interior minister Arye
Deri, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Construction and Housing Minister Ariel
Attias – told the prime minister on Sunday afternoon that their entry into the
government was still in his hands. They urged him to reach out to Labor
chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich to bring her party into the coalition, thereby
enabling Shas to join as well.
The impression the Shas leaders have
received, a party source said, is that the pact between Bayit Yehudi chairman
Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid is too strong to break and that
the only way into government for them would be if Labor (15 Knesset seats)
joined, in which case Netanyahu would not need Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi’s
collective 31 Knesset seats.
Yacimovich, however, has not wavered from
her campaign promise to remain in the opposition, even when Likud Beytenu
offered her party the Finance; Industry, Trade and Labor; and Social Services
ministries. According to the Labor leader, her views are too different from
those of Netanyahu.
“It seems that the bond between Lapid and Bennett and
their hatred for the haredim is unbreakable at this stage,” the Shas party
Shas also rejected a suggestion the prime minister made
earlier in negotiations, that the party join the government at a later stage,
after the government was already formed. The party pointed out that it would not
want to join a coalition after Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi passed a haredi
enlistment law, housing reform or budget cuts, which Shas and United Torah
Judaism believe would hurt haredi interests.
The same source threatened
that the haredi public and political leadership “would long remember the
behavior of the national-religious party [Bayit Yehudi] after these
“When the haredim are once again in government and the
national-religious are not, they will see our response to what they have done,”
the official warned.
He added that they would not cynically support
antisettlement activity, such as evacuations or construction freezes, as
revenge, referring to the generally right-wing attitude of the haredi public on
Soon after his meeting with Shas, Netanyahu sat with
Bennett, in a meeting the Bayit Yehudi spokesman described as “good and
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman participated in part of the meeting, which focused on a
timeline for passing a haredi enlistment bill and budgetary issues.
Yehudi chief negotiator MK Uri Ariel said the party suggested that “coalition
funds,” state spending that is given to sectors represented by parties in the
coalition, be canceled and that the 2013-14 budget be declared a national
emergency budget. The “coalition funds” in the previous government reached close
to NIS 1 billion annually.
“We constantly said that Bayit Yehudi is no
longer a sectorial party, but is concerned with all of the people of Israel,
which is why I think we must recommend as part of coalition demands that the
funds be canceled,” Ariel said. “We promised to behave responsibly, and we will
keep that promise.”
What may have foiled Netanyahu’s hopes to break the
Yesh Atid-Bayit Yehudi alliance and bring the latter into a government with Shas
and UTJ was a letter from the rabbis behind Tekuma, a farright faction that
makes up one-third of Bayit Yehudi, saying they support the
Netanyahu’s close associate Natan Eshel was said to have
attempted to convince the Tekuma rabbis that they should align themselves with
the haredim, and not a secularist party.
“Despite all of the hysteria in
the media, we strengthen the path you are on to preserving the world of Torah
and settlement in the Land of Israel, in cooperation with Yair Lapid and the
Yesh Atid party,” rabbis Dov Lior, Haim Steiner, Isser Klonsky and David Chai
Hacohen wrote in a letter to Bennett and Ariel.
Earlier on Sunday,
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz expressed discomfort at the idea of leaving
haredi parties out of the coalition.
“The prime minister has doubts about
rejecting an entire public,” Steinitz said.
“This is an undesirable
Israel needs the widest, most stable government possible. I
don’t like the style of boycotting or indirectly boycotting.”
Water Minister Uzi Landau expressed optimism at the prospect of a coalition that
can focus on civil and domestic issues, but disapproved of Yesh Atid and the
Bayit Yehudi’s methods.
“We have a chance to bring great changes in
allowing everyone to participate in the workforce, enlistment in the army,
affordable housing, electoral reform,” he listed. “I call on anyone who believes
in these principles – like Bennett and Lapid – not to let us miss this chance
again. We need to make sure all of these principles come true, but not through