Netanyahu and Bennett.
(photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett asked to be Education Minister Saturday night, giving up his previous demand of the Foreign Ministry in order to ensure his party will have two more ministers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Bennett he would give him an answer in the coming days.
Bennett’s move could pave the way for Netanyahu to bring Yisrael Beytenu into the coalition by offering Avigdor Liberman a third term in the Foreign Ministry.
Several Likud MKs have their eye on the Education Portfolio, including Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely and MKs Ze’ev Elkin and Gila Gamliel.
Bayit Yehudi is also demanding the Religious Affairs Ministry and pushing for chairmanship of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
On Friday, the Likud and Bayit Yehudi made progress, agreeing to the number of titles the latter party’s MKs will receive, but not which ones.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party offered Bayit Yehudi four ministries for three ministers, a deputy minister and a Knesset committee chairman, which the latter party accepted Friday, saying that the Likud met its demands.
However, Bayit Yehudi did not accept the Likud’s offer of the Economy Ministry, which party chairman Naftali Bennett currently leads, the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which Bennett would also head, the Agriculture Ministry and the Culture and Sport Ministry, as well a deputy minister position in the Education Ministry.
“Likud wants to make it seem like we’re about the sign, but that’s not the case.
Only now negotiations can really begin,” a source close to Bennett said Saturday night.
The source pointed out that other parties seem to be getting what they demand in terms of specific ministries – Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon is expected to be the new Finance Minister, United Torah Judaism will probably get the Health Portfolio and Knesset Finance Committee, Shas leader Arye Deri is likely to be the next Interior Minister and Yisrael Beytenu was promised Immigration and Absorption – but Bayit Yehudi was not offered any of the portfolios it has deemed important.
“It’s unacceptable that we asked for three ministries and didn’t even get one. There is a lot of negotiating to do,” he added. “If Netanyahu wants to stay tough until the end [of negotiations], we can keep going until the end. [The Likud] should stop spinning and start negotiating.”
Activist Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever is involved in advocating for the Likud to accept Bennett’s push for a moratorium on settlement construction freezes as part of the coalition agreement.
Despite reports that Kulanu and the Likud are on the verge of signing an agreement, Likud negotiator MK Yariv Levin said Saturday night that the two parties were far from the end of negotiations.
Likud and Bayit Yehudi’s push for conservative policies on the judiciary continued to be a point of contention in talks with Kulanu, which are set to continue Sunday.
Levin said Kahlon’s party opposes both judicial reforms put forward: Appointing more politicians to the Committee to Appoint Judges and a law allowing the Knesset to repass legislation the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional.
In an interview with Channel 2 News that aired Friday night, Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked pointed out that Kahlon cosponsored a bill to change the makeup of the Committee to Appoint Judges in the past, and said she would like three months to try to convince him to return to that position.
The Kulanu and Likud negotiating teams plan to discuss budgetary items resulting from the many economic reforms Kahlon has planned.
On Friday, Netanyahu met with Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, and the Likud and Shas negotiating teams met. All sides involved said no significant progress was made, and a Likud source said portfolios are the main issue being negotiated with both parties.
Also Friday, Shas denied reports that party chairman Arye Deri plans to declare support for a unity government because he is angry that his proposal of canceling value-added tax on basic food items will not be part of the coalition’s founding guidelines.