(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not agree to share the premiership with Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog in a "rotation government" following the election, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) told a town hall meeting in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
The latest polls show Zionist Union with a four-seat lead over Likud, prompting speculation that if the results are borne out in this week's election, Netanyahu will have no choice but to invite Herzog into a unity government in which both men will share power.
"[Netanyahu] will not be prime minister in a rotation arrangement," Erdan said.
The minister said that he doesn't believe Herzog and his running mate, Tzipi Livni, will accept the Likud's governing guidelines in the event that Netanyahu is tasked with forming the next coalition.
Erdan said that the Likud would first seek to invite its natural ally, the religious Zionist Bayit Yehudi party, into the coalition before negotiating with other parties.
The minister repeated a Likud accusation that foreign donors are bypassing Israeli election laws and funding campaigns aimed at toppling the ruling party. The specific reference was to the V15 movement, whose wealthy backers are known to support liberal causes in Israel.
"Non-profits spring up right before elections, and a lot of foreign money flows into the country in order to bypass campaign finance laws with the intention of removing the Likud from power," Erdan said.
The veteran Likud power broker said that the ruling party is on track to form the next coalition.
"There is no significant drop-off in the number of Knesset seats the Likud will win, and that's natural because we are the ruling party," he said. "We've led the State of Israel in the proper fashion. We've been responsible and careful, and while it is clear there are problems, when you examine life here in the face of our neighbors, and when you look at the economy compared to that of other Western countries, then you will see that good work has been done here."
Erdan said he was concerned over the possibility that Likud could lose power in a last-minute development.
"We are in danger of seeing the Likud and the nationalist camp lose the ability to form the next government," he said. "That would mean Bouji (Herzog's nickname) and Tzipi will do it with the support of Ahmed Tibi, who apparently will be a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee."
"Assuming that Netanyahu forms the next government, I prefer [Bayit Yehudi's] Naftali Bennett, the ultra-Orthodox, [Moshe] Kahlon, and [Avigdor] Liberman in the coalition. I'm not ruling anyone out on condition that they accept the government guidelines as spelled out by Likud."