Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is furious at what he believes is a conspiracy
by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett to try
to prevent Shas and United Torah Judaism from joining the coalition, Likud
sources said on Sunday.
Sources who attended Netanyahu’s meeting with
Likud ministers said he spoke of Lapid and Bennett with contempt, complaining
that “their strategy is not to reach solutions on key issues, only to push out
the haredi parties.”
Ministers quoted Netanyahu as saying that Lapid and
Bennett cared only about advancing themselves politically rather than the good
of the country.
Mocking Lapid’s plan for equalizing the burden of IDF
service, Netanyahu said that “it will neither bring equality nor ease anyone’s
Sources close to the prime minister went further, alleging that
Lapid and Bennett were aiming to break the 36-yearold bond between Likud and the
haredi parties, so that following the next election, they will not recommend
that Netanyahu form the government.
The Likud ministers said Netanyahu
clearly intends to keep the foreign portfolio for his No. 2 in Likud Beytenu,
Avigdor Liberman, even though he will not be able to become foreign minister
until he is cleared of the charges against him in his trial, which began Sunday
and will continue in April.
A Likud source said that if Netanyahu could
trust Lapid, perhaps he would try to break out of his commitment with Liberman,
but he is far from that point now.
Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu
intended to build a coalition with the 57 MKs of Likud Beytenu, Shas, UTJ, The
Tzipi Livni Party and Kadima, and then give Bennett a choice between joining the
coalition without Lapid or initiating an election in which the Left could come
Livni denied a Channel 10 report that she had accepted the
In other attempts to break the political pact between
Lapid and Bennett, Shas cochairmen Arye Deri and Eli Yishai met respectively
with the leader of Bayit Yehudi and the leaders of the Council of Jewish
Communities in Judea and Samaria.
One settler leader told Yishai,
“Bennett is making a mistake if he is seeking a momentary deal with Lapid rather
than a stable bond with Shas.”
Yishai warned the settler leaders that “if
there will be a diplomatic process, Lapid will throw Bennett out of the
We [in Shas], however, are not a spare tire for the
Sources close to Bennett denied that his party sought a coalition
They said that if Netanyahu wanted to find solutions on
equalizing the burden of service and changing the electoral system, deals with
Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid could be reached quickly.
Bayit Yehudi MKs
blasted Netanyahu for seeking to build a coalition with Labor and The Tzipi
Livni Party and for suggesting that Bayit Yehudi was violating the will of its
voters by making a deal with Lapid.
“The Likud is insulting the
intelligence of the public when it accuses us of defrauding our voters,” said MK
“The Likud’s first partner is Livni, who will conduct
negotiations [with the Palestinians], the same Livni who ran on a campaign of
creating a Palestinian state, who would divide Jerusalem, and who said Netanyahu
is leading Israel to a disaster. Is that not defrauding voters?”
Shaked said that reports the prime minister was offering the finance portfolio
to Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich also indicated he was defrauding voters, after
years of the Labor leader and Netanyahu explaining the differences in their
“Suddenly, Netanyahu will agree to an economic plan
that costs NIS 138 billion and become a social democrat?” she
“Come on. We were silent amid all the Likud attacks on us during
the election. Friends in Likud, the election is over. Stop attacking
Bayit Yehudi and simply form a government.”
MK Uri Orbach wrote on
Facebook that “suddenly the Likud, which portrayed us during the campaign as
closed-minded Jews, is now presenting us as gentiles who are willing to sell out
to the secular Lapid. The Likud, which just recently slung mud on our rabbis, is
now chasing after them and trying to persuade those same rabbis to pressure
MK Yoni Chetboun added that he expected the Likud to focus on
drafting the guidelines for Netanyahu’s government rather than leak political
spin to cause friction.
“Parties are leaking political spin to reporters
in order to anger and divide,” Chetboun said.
“The party that has been in
power for four years should lead the way to clear coalition guidelines. It’s
called ideology. Take a time-out and think about the good of the
The Likud responded that Netanyahu was seeking to build a
coalition with his party’s natural partners on the Right and then widen it to
parties on the Center-Left.
“We aren’t tricking anyone,” a Likud official
said. “Bennett is mistakenly trying to stop a right-wing government from
being formed. He made a mistake by falling in love with Lapid, who is only using