Coalition talks between Likud Beytenu and Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi remained at a near-standstill Tuesday, meaning that the
government will most likely be sworn in next week. Amid the growing hurdles to form the government Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with joint chief of Shas MK and Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Tuesday night.
Likud Beytenu’s hopes
of signing an agreement with Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi by Tuesday, presenting
his choices to President Shimon Peres Wednesday and then having the government
sworn in on Thursday following the legally mandated 24-hour waiting period, were
dashed. Netanyahu’s deadline to form a coalition is
A new bone of contention arose between the parties – the
chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee – and this time, Bayit Yehudi
joined in the wrangling.
In a clear sign of strife between former
allies, Bayit Yehudi made public its demand for the powerful committee – which
carries the political cache of a ministry – citing the fact that Yesh Atid
leader Yair Lapid had received the Finance portfolio that Bayit Yehudi chairman
Naftali Bennett coveted, and that Bayit Yehudi had gone down from four to three
ministries due to Yesh Atid’s demands for a smaller government.
in Bennett’s party have expressed frustration over having made concessions to
help Yesh Atid achieve many of its objectives in coalition talks, while the
latter has not done the same for them.
“In order to keep our promises for
economic reforms and break apart market concentration, we must have the ability
to take down the barriers in the way, and the Finance Committee is the tool for
that,” a senior Bayit Yehudi source explained, adding that the party had
requested chairmanship of the Knesset panel several days ago.
Yehudi wants MK Nissan Slomiansky to hold the chairman post, but Likud Beytenu
hopes to give it to its own MK Faina Kirschenbaum, and Yesh Atid would put MK
Ofer Shelah in the post.
On Tuesday night, perhaps in
recognition of the growing cracks between Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid the
PM meet with joint chief of Shas MK and Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
The Shas lawmaker on Wednesday morning commented on the coalition
negotiation process, which he has been largely excluded from up to this
point saying, "My heart goes out to the prime minister who is expected
in the coming years to be prisoner to the whims of Yesh Atid and Bayit
Another hitch in coalition talks is the number
of ministries Hatnua would get. Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni and Likud Beytenu want
to leave it at two, as agreed upon in the parties’ coalition deal. However, Yesh
Atid and Bayit Yehudi’s portfolios go according to a ministerial index of one
per every four MKs, and they are demanding that the six-MK Hatnua follow the
Meanwhile, the clash between Likud Beytenu and Yesh Atid
over the Education portfolio – with the former insisting that current Education
Minister Gideon Sa’ar stay in the post and the latter wanting it to go to its
own MK Shai Piron – continued. Another option would be for Sa’ar to become
interior minister, but Yesh Atid has demanded to hold both disputed
Also Tuesday, a halachic responsum that Piron – a former
rabbi at the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva – issued during the second intifada came
to light, saying that Jewish people should not rent homes to Arabs. Sources in
Yesh Atid accused the Likud of searching for “dirt” on Piron to deter the party
from holding on to the Education portfolio.
Still, the parties managed to
reach agreements on issues not related to portfolios.
Likud Beytenu has
accepted Yesh Atid’s demands for electoral reform, including constructive
no-confidence votes, which would require votes from 70 MKs in order to pass, as
well as an agreed-upon candidate to replace the prime minister.
addition, the election threshold will be raised to 4 percent, meaning that
parties would need five seats to get into the Knesset.
Such a change
could put Arab parties in danger of being left out of the next Knesset, along
with other small parties like Meretz, United Torah Judaism, Hatnua, Kadima and
Bayit Yehudi, some of which had three or four seats in the last
The parties also agreed last week to pass a law that would not
allow governments to have more than 18 ministers.
Yesh Atid and Likud
Beytenu gave mixed messages as to whether they agreed on an outline for haredi
A senior Likud Beytenu source said the sides had reached
an agreement, but would not confirm details.
Yesh Atid, in contrast,
listed its demands – compromises based on the party platform – but said Likud
Beytenu had not yet agreed to them.
The apparent outline would include
exemptions from service for 1,800 Torah study prodigies, enlistment at age 21,
and economic sanctions on yeshivot that discouraged students from serving, as
opposed to individuals who chose to dodge the draft.
In accordance with
Yesh Atid’s plan, the changes would be implemented in five years, during which
time the ultra- Orthodox would be exempt from IDF service and allowed to find
employment regardless of whether they were full-time yeshiva students.