Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will have no choice but to include Shas and
United Torah Judaism in his coalition, despite Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid’s
preference for a haredi-free government, sources in the two haredi parties said
over the weekend.
A source in Shas said messages were being relayed
between Lapid and Shas’s Arye Deri, in an effort to reach common ground on key
issues to enable the two parties to work together in the next
The sources said that despite tough talk in public by party
leaders, progress was being made behind the scenes in private.
Shas intend to raise their asking price following reports that Netanyahu does
not plan to include Bayit Yehudi in his coalition. Shas officials said they were
emboldened by a Channel 2 report that Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett had
tried to incriminate Netanyahu when he was questioned about funding for the
prime minister’s overseas trips in the so-called Bibi-Tours scandal.
officials downplayed statements from UTJ MK Moshe Gafni about a proposed haredi
bloc for coalition negotiations.
The Shas officials said the two parties
were merely coordinating strategy on preventing the drafting of yeshiva
“There is a psychology that comes into play with negotiations,”
a Shas source said.
“Forming a haredi bloc does not obligate us not to
enter the Knesset without United Torah Judaism.”
Gafni said in radio
interviews on Friday that he would not rule out sitting in a coalition with Yesh
Atid, but vowed to maintain the principles his party shared with
“Yesh Atid did indeed receive 19 seats, but UTJ and Shas together
have 18,” he told Army Radio. “On the matter of the status quo, on the issues of
religion and drafting yeshiva students, it is impossible to impose different
lifestyles on one another, and for this reason I believe that at the end of the day, common sense will prevail.”
MK-elect Meir Porush told the haredi website Kikar Shabbat on Friday that his
party’s red line would be enabling every yeshiva student who wants to study
Torah to defer army service. He advised Netanyahu to bring haredi parties into
his coalition first and only then turn to Yesh Atid and The Tzipi Livni Party,
in order to lower the asking price of the parties on the
“Netanyahu understands that he can count on his natural
partners more than parties that will drift off the political map,” Porush
“Once it was [former justice minister Yosef] “Tommy” Lapid. Today
it is Yair Lapid. There was the Democratic Movement for Change and the Center
Party. We are stable and have been running for 64 years and Netanyahu knows that
he cannot take his natural partners and throw them away after they have gone so
far with him.”
Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud), who is close
to Netanyahu, told Channel 2’s Meet the Press program on Saturday night that
more than 80 MKs in the incoming Knesset represent parties that supported
Netanyahu remaining prime minister. He said Netanyahu intended to form the
widest possible coalition.
Labor MK Eitan Cabel dared Netanyahu on Friday
to form a centrist coalition without right-wing and haredi parties. Despite Labor
chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich’s pledge to lead the opposition, Cabel said Labor
could join a coalition that was truly centrist.
“If the prime minister
would have the courage – and he doesn’t – so it’s no more than wishful
thinking... if he would call us, Kadima, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid and would
say ‘You are my coalition,’ that would be difficult for us to refuse,” Cabel
said in an interview with Army Radio.
Kadima officials have advised party
chairman Shaul Mofaz that if he takes his two-man faction into the coalition, he
should quit the Knesset to enable the third candidate on the party’s Knesset
list, outgoing MK Yohanan Plesner, to return to the Knesset. Mofaz faced
criticism inside Kadima for not focusing its campaign on equalizing the burden
of IDF service, a cause Plesner put at the top of the public’s
Tamara Zieve contributed to this report.