Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet with the heads of Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi, Yisrael Beytenu and Hatnua on Thursday, to try to broker a compromise that leads to postponing next month’s presidential election.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid apparently killed chances of delaying the race when he came out against the move.
But the prime minister still intends to meet the heads of the coalition parties to push the idea.
Netanyahu has not found a candidate to support in the race, despite turning to former ministers Natan Sharansky and Yaakov Neeman and current Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein. None were willing to run without the prime minister guaranteeing his victory in the race, which the Knesset is expected to hold on June 17 or 18.
The race continued to deteriorate into mudslinging on Wednesday when lawmakers were sent an anonymous video bashing one of the leading candidates, Likud MK Reuven Rivlin. His main challenger, Labor MK Binyamin Ben- Eliezer, asked the Knesset to investigate the video.
Lapid said on Wednesday that his party would not support any candidate in the race and that he intended to keep his own vote a secret. His decision was bad news for candidates who hoped to win his support, including Nobel laureate Prof. Dan Shechtman and former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner.
Also on Wednesday, Yesh Atid rejected on offer from Netanyahu to receive a deputy minister post instead of the chairmanship of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Lapid’s ally, Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah, had coveted. Netanyahu gave the position to Likud MKs Ze’ev Elkin and Yariv Levin in a rotation arrangement.
“Yesh Atid does not want a deputy minister as compensation for the committee,” Lapid told Army Radio. “I am sad that Shelah did not receive the chairmanship, because he is the most qualified man for the post and would have done a great job.”
After Shelah turned down the deputy minister post, there was talk in Yesh Atid of appointing Ethiopia-born MK Pnina Tamanu-Shata as deputy minister of welfare and social services, or immigration and absorption, or America-born MK Dov Lipman as deputy foreign minister.
Lipman declined to discuss the potential appointment but expressed support for Lapid’s decision to not take the deputy minister post for the party.
“From its inception, Yesh Atid declared that ministerial positions should not be used as political payoffs at taxpayer expense,” Lipman said. “I am proud that we declined the offer of a deputy minister position in exchange for the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee – a clear example of the new politics we have brought to the Knesset.”
Shelah met with Bayit Yehudi faction head Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset cafeteria in an effort to resolve differences between the parties over legislation.
Yesh Atid angered Shaked when it appealed the Ministerial Committee on Legislation’s passage of Shaked’s bill that would enable courts to sentence terrorists to life sentences without the possibility of presidential pardons.
In response, Bayit Yehudi appealed Yesh Atid-sponsored bills that would suspend Education Ministry workers suspected of sexual crimes. Yesh Atid then appealed a bill by Bayit Yehudi MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli that would outlaw discrimination based on an employee’s place of residence.
Sources in both parties said a serious effort was being made to solve the impasse.