Likud denies Zionist Union claim that Netanyahu sought unity government

Prime minister would not reach out to Herzog because of "deep ideological differences," Likud claims.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
March 22, 2015 12:33
3 minute read.
Herzog Netanyahu

Herzog and Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Responding to reports claiming that the Likud had reached out to the Zionist Union in order to form a national unity government, the Likud stated Sunday that "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not authorize anyone to make contact with Labor."

"If the prime minister wanted to talk to Herzog he would do it himself, without a mediator," the Likud said. "But he won't, due to the deep ideological differences between Labor and Likud."

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According to a Channel 10 report, Netanyahu sent his trusted former chief of staff Natan Eshel to opposition leader Isaac Herzog, to check whether his Zionist Union faction would join a national unity government, sources close to Herzog said on Saturday night.

The sources said that Eshel checked informally on Netanyahu’s behalf and that Herzog responded that there was no chance he would join Netanyahu’s government.

Zionist Union officials denied a report that MK Tzipi Livni was considering breaking off from the faction with other MKs and joining the coalition.

Netanyahu said repeatedly throughout the campaign that he would not form a government with the Zionist Union. But the possibility of at least part of the Zionist Union entering the coalition being on the table could help Netanyahu bring down the asking price of his prospective coalition partners on the Right.

Both Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said over the weekend that there was no guarantee they would join Netanyahu’s coalition.

“Kulanu is a party of ideology,” Kahlon wrote on his Facebook page on Friday.

“The results of the election are clear, but our ideology will remain what matters. We will keep our promises to the public in the coalition talks. We are not coming to talk or to get cabinet seats but to make a change, solve problems and fix Israeli society. None of us were born in the cabinet, and none of us has to be there.”

Herzog said Netanyahu must make amends with Israel’s Arab minority following his comments about high Arab voter turnout. An Israel Democracy Institute spokesman told The Jerusalem Post’s Ariel Ben Solomon on Friday that the IDI estimated Arab voter turnout at around 70 percent, a huge increase from the 56.5% turnout in the 2013 election. “When Netanyahu said that the Arabs were heading to the polls in droves, he humiliated and hurt 20% of Israel’s citizens all in the name of his reelection drive,” Herzog said.

“His first order of business must be to right this wrong with deeds, not with empty words. He must heal this rift that he caused.”

The prime minister said he was not against Arabs voting, he was upset that a great deal of money was spent by foreign sources in an effort to influence the vote and topple him.

Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked said that after Netanyahu took Bayit Yehudi voters away to the Likud, he should compensate her party with the amount of portfolios Bayit Yehudi would have received had he not done so. Bayit Yehudi won eight Knesset seats but is demanding three cabinet positions for party chairman Naftali Bennett, current Construction Minister Uri Ariel and Shaked.

Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid called upon Netanyahu Saturday not to appoint Shas chairman Arye Deri as interior minister. Lapid said it was wrong to put a man who served jail time for bribery in charge of a ministry with a large budget.

Shas responded that Lapid had been the worst finance minister in history and therefore has no right to scold anyone.


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