Coalition talks down to the wire as deadline looms

PM Netanyahu has until Wednesday at 8 p.m. to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he has formed a government.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 1, 2015 06:44
1 minute read.
The Knesset

The Knesset . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud negotiating team failed to persuade its Shas and Bayit Yehudi counterparts to compromise Thursday, postponing signing ceremonies with the two parties as well as with Yisrael Beytenu to next week.

Netanyahu has until Wednesday at 8 p.m. to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he has formed a government. If he does not have the support of at least 61 MKs by then, Rivlin would then be obligated to call upon another MK to build a coalition or initiate another election.

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The Likud negotiating team met at the Knesset with the Bayit Yehudi team while Netanyahu was meeting with Shas leader Arye Deri at the Prime Minister’s Office. At the end of the meetings, neither coalition partner had compromised on the Religious Services portfolio that they are both demanding.

Deri even refused to allow Bayit Yehudi to have a deputy minister in the Religious Services Ministry under him. He also demanded a third portfolio for himself in addition to the Economy and Religious Services portfolios.

When Deri demanded the Welfare Ministry or Negev and Galilee Development portfolio, Netanyahu refused and said he must keep them for ministers in the Likud.

Deri announced Thursday that he no longer wants the Interior portfolio he had been pursuing. Speaking on Army Radio, he addressed the Quality Government petition, in which 40,000 people demanded that he be denied the post.

The signers of the petition said Deri is unfit to be interior minister because of his conviction for bribery when he held the portfolio in the 1990s.

“I don’t want to cause people to gossip and I don’t want to start my next job on the wrong foot,” Deri told Army Radio.

The prime minister agreed to accept Deri’s demand to cancel value- added tax on basic consumer items, an issue Shas highlighted during the election campaign.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has received everything his party demanded when it comes to portfolios, but he is still trying to receive concessions from Netanyahu on the diplomatic front.

Liberman demanded that the coalition guidelines call for toppling Hamas, unlimited building in Jerusalem, and drawing Israel’s borders in a way that will exclude some Arab towns in pre-1967 Israel from the final borders of the Jewish state.

Ariel Zilber contributed to this report.


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