As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that coalition talks were almost
over, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett delayed
signing final agreements on Thursday.
Likud Beytenu asked to meet with
the two parties’ negotiating teams to notify them that, contrary to agreements
reached in previous talks, Netanyahu no longer wants to appoint any deputies.
The negotiators refused to meet on the issue.
Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid
sources said that their party leaders had been promised vice premier positions,
and that it was important to them that Netanyahu keep his word so they could trust
“We won’t play this game of lastminute tricks,” a source close to
Bennett said, adding that the party heard about the prime minister’s change of
heart on the radio before anyone from Likud Beytenu notified Bayit
Still, Likud Beytenu negotiator Moshe Leon told Channel 2 News on
Thursday night that he’s confident that an agreement would be signed on
“We’ve been talking about the issues for six weeks, and this
topic [of vice premiers] only came up once. When it’s time to sign, they can’t
just complain about this,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday at a Likud
Beytenu faction meeting, Netanyahu said the job of building a coalition was
nearly complete, and that the party got the most important portfolios – foreign
“These are the most important ministries, the areas of
responsibility that let us manage the country,” he said.
pointed to his party’s majority in the cabinet, without which, he said, its
ministers could not promote its policies.
“The upcoming term will be one
of the most difficult ever,” he explained.
“There are a number of
challenges that are not getting enough public attention.”
minister also called on Lapid to pass a responsible budget that would protect
the economy in the face of international turmoil, and said he would give the new
finance minister all the support he needed.
“I am sure we will do all we
need within security, diplomatic and economic areas to bring good news to the
State of Israel,” he concluded.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman
added a bit of humor to the meeting, joking about “white smoke not only in the
Vatican, but in Jerusalem, too.”
“There has been a lot of commentary in
the media about political dealings. I hope we’re finished with this chapter, and
next week the commentary will be about our work, not that,” he said.