Ten days before the January 22 general election, parties that hope to be included in a prospective coalition led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began issuing their demands on Saturday night.
Likud officials confirmed a report by Ben Caspit in The Jerusalem Post’s weekend Hebrew sister paper, Sof Hashavua, that haredi parties had told Netanyahu that they would not recommend to President Shimon Peres that Netanyahu form the next government unless he will make concessions to them on drafting yeshiva students.
The report said that Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Natan Eshel was mediating between Netanyahu and the haredi parties but there were also direct talks between Netanyahu and senior haredi officials.
Shas triumvirate leader Arye Deri called on Netanyahu to speak with him directly about his party entering the coalition in an interview with Channel 2.
Speaking to the camera, Deri told Netanyahu, “Call me. I’m ready to come to your home and complete negotiations in order to enter the government.”
Deri denied allegations from Likud that he had negotiated with Labor and the parties of the Center-Left, and accused Netanyahu of preferring to form a coalition with the Center-Left instead of Shas.
“For two or three months now, I have been shouting from every platform that whoever votes Shas will get us, as well as Netanyahu as prime minister,” Deri said.
“But I hear from top Likud people that Netanyahu wants a Center- Left government and not a coalition with his natural partners.”
Deri expressed optimism that compromises could be reached to allow Shas to coexist in a coalition with Yesh Atid, the party headed by Yair Lapid, the son of his late former nemesis, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid.
A Likud spokesman said in response to Deri’s interview that when he last headed Shas, the party was part of Yitzhak Rabin’s government that signed the Oslo Accords. The spokesman warned that those who vote Shas could end up contributing to the formation of a left-wing government.
Likud officials said the Center- Left parties were willing to pay an exorbitant price to the haredim to receive their support. They said the only way to prevent that from happening was to strengthen Likud Beytenu.
“Whoever doesn’t want the prime minister to have to give into haredi extortion will have to vote for his list,” a Likud spokesman said.
At a debate among candidates in Efrat on Saturday night, MK Uri Ariel, who is No. 2 on the Bayit Yehudi list, said his party would demand as a condition for joining the coalition the right to vote its conscience on any issue that could harm the settlements.
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, whose party passed the two percent electoral threshold in six weekend polls, issued his demands for entering the coalition in a Shabbat cultural event in the South Sharon region. He hinted that he would not join a government with Bayit Yehudi.
“Our goal is to ensure the formation of a government without extremists,” Mofaz said. “We want to make the government more centrist and ensure that we can have an impact. Our conditions are known and we have proven that we won’t stay if our conditions are not met.” •