(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to form a narrow coalition of 61 MKs if Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman decides to take his Yisrael Beytenu Party to the opposition, sources close to Netanyahu said Sunday.
The sources noted that former prime minister Menachem Begin had a coalition of 61 MKs and former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin 62.
They said a coalition would be formed by Wednesday’s deadline whether or not Yisrael Beytenu will be part of it.
Liberman expressed frustration in closed conversations about concessions on matters of religion and state and diplomatic issues made in the coalition deals the Likud signed with United Torah Judaism and Kulanu last week.
“The chances of us joining the government are equal to the chances we will not join,” a Yisrael Beytenu source said.
Liberman is set to explain his personal dilemma over joining the coalition in a speech at the beginning of his Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting Monday. Kahlon has been pressuring him to stop flexing his political muscles and join the government.
The Likud negotiating team met Sunday with the Bayit Yehudi team and then representatives of Shas.
Neither of those meetings, nor an overnight meeting between Netanyahu and Shas leader Arye Deri, succeeded in solving a dispute over the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Deri has demanded a third portfolio for himself and has refused to allow Bayit Yehudi a deputy minister in the Religious Affairs Ministry he will head. Unsuccessful efforts were made to play one of the two demands against the other.
The final day for Netanyahu to form a government is Wednesday. He could decide to hold the swearing-in ceremony next Monday to finalize key issues in the deal.