Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with the leadership of Shas on Sunday, telling them that the pact between Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid was currently preventing him from adding Shas to the coalition.
Later on Sunday Netanyahu met with Bennett in an effort to bridge the gaps that have thus far kept Bayit Yehudi from joining the coalition. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman also attended portions of the meeting, Israel Radio reported.
Both sides stated that the meeting had been "good and useful."
Netanyahu placed the blame for his failure to form a government on Lapid and Bennett on Saturday night, after receiving a two-week extension for coalition negotiations from President Shimon Peres. The prime minister suggested that Lapid and Bennett were "boycotting" the haredi parties.
Netanyahu briefed Shas leaders Eli Yishai, Aryeh Deri and Ariel Attias on his efforts to form a coalition on Sunday. He told the Shas leaders that Bennett's refusal to join the government unless Lapid also joined could very well leave Shas out of the next government and in the opposition.
Channnel 10 quoted sources familiar with the meeting as saying Netanyahu told the Shas leadership triumvirate that he had not given up on his efforts to include them in a broad-based coaliton, and that he would not give up his efforts "until the last minute."
Speaking earlier at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu played the "Iran card" in calling for the country's various political parties to join him and form a broad coalition to face Israel's massive challenges.
"At a time when [Israel's enemies] are uniting their efforts, we are also called upon to unite forces to fend off those dangers," Netanyahu said. Unfortunately, he added in a reference to the current coalition negotiations, "this is not what is happening. I will continue my efforts in the coming days to try and unite forces to face the major national and international tasks that stand before us."
Herb Keinon and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.