Yair Lapid sent a message to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday, reassuring him that he could be trusted if he includes Yesh Atid in the coalition, sources close to Lapid said.
Lapid sent the message after hearing from The Jerusalem Post that Netanyahu had told Likud ministers on Sunday that the Yesh Atid leader only cared about himself politically rather than the good of the country. Netanyahu had been angered by a statement made by Lapid in which he hinted that he intended to run and win the premiership in the next election.
“We will not undermine you or topple you,” Lapid told Netanyahu. “We want the next government to serve out its term. We have goals to reach and accomplishments to achieve. Do not worry.”
A source connected to Likud Beytenu’s negotiating team downplayed the message from Lapid and said it could not be taken seriously if it was delivered via the press. He said he did not know whether the prime minister had also received it directly.
Earlier, Lapid complained to his faction that no negotiations were taking place with his party. He expressed frustration that Likud Beytenu wanted to talk about ministerial appointments rather than the government’s principles.
“What matters is not portfolios but where Netanyahu wants to lead the nation, to what goals, and according to what values,” Lapid said.
“Once he knows that, it will be easy to form a government.”
Bayit Yehudi party leader Naftali Bennett, who also faced Netanyahu’s wrath in his talk with Likud ministers, joined Lapid’s complaint about the lack of negotiations.
“The government should be formed as soon as possible,” Bennett said. “As soon as [Likud Beytenu] decides to conduct negotiations, I believe it will take 24 hours to reach an agreement. But important principles must be resolved before portfolios.”
A senior Likud official responding to Bennett said that there have been negotiations with his party on all the key issues, including equalizing the draft, the peace process and security. The official said Bayit Yehudi was offered to be the first party to join the government but it rejected the offer and said it would not join a coalition without Yesh Atid.
Likud officials maintained hope that if Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi were left out of the coalition, Labor could join instead, perhaps with Yacimovich becoming finance minister and acting Knesset Speaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer maintaining his current job. But Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said unequivocally that joining the government was not an option for her party.
“There is a huge gap between us and Netanyahu,” she said.
“We were contractors of Netanyahu last time, and we know how far that made us fall.
People say we have to join the government to prevent it from being [so bad]. What are we, contraceptives? No portfolio, no matter how senior, will tempt us.”