Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett expressed optimism about the formation of
the next coalition in a faction meeting on Monday, while Yesh Atid chairman Yair
Lapid warned of possible surprises.
Meanwhile, Labor leader Shelly
Yacimovich insisted that she will remain in the opposition, despite efforts by
haredi parties to convince her otherwise.
Bennett opened the Bayit Yehudi
faction meeting by describing a hiking trip he took recently and the greenery he
“The political field is also moving from winter to spring. That is
the source of a good atmosphere and a lot of goodwill to form a government,” he
The Bayit Yehudi leader’s optimism may stem from Likud Beytenu’s
support for his party’s demand that Bennett be the next finance
Channel 10 news reported that Likud Beytenu would have no
problem with Bennett taking that post, as the two parties have similar stances
on economic issues.
Bennett added that his party is “rolling up its
sleeves” to help the prime minister form the widest coalition
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and others in Likud Beytenu criticized Bennett –
either by name or with thinly veiled hints – for maintaining his pact with
Lapid, even though the latter refuses to sit in the government with haredi
parties, which would prevent the formation of a broad coalition.
and Netanyahu met on Friday evening in a secret meeting that was not revealed to
the press at the time, but his comments on Monday made it clear they were not
close to signing an agreement yet.
The Yesh Atid leader pointed out at
the start of a faction meeting that there is a lot of work left and many issues
that need to be resolved before the government is formed.
“It’s far from
over,” he said. “Israeli politics is about surprises. I hope that, together with
the prime minister, we will successfully form a government that is good and
stable, and will deal with what is good for the country and not for
Lapid called for patience and said the coalition will
probably not be formed in the next few days.
He also expressed hope that
he will take part in improving the lives of all Israelis, including the
“Haredim will see that we are not against them. It is
part of our job to be at their service,” he stated.
Netanyahu will have
to sign agreements with both Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi in order to form a
coalition of over 61 seats, because the parties are aligned and will not be in a
government with Shas and United Torah Judaism.
The prime minister’s only
alternative is to bring Labor into the coalition, which would also allow the
haredi parties to join, but the possibility is looking as unlikely as
At the start of a Labor faction meeting, Yacimovich addressed
rumors appearing mostly in the haredi press claiming that she is forming a
committee for coalition talks and considering joining Netanyahu’s
“In recent days, I’ve received hundreds of requests to join
the government and ‘save’ Prime Minister Netanyahu,” she said.
all the calls and the attempts to open negotiating channels, nothing is
different that will make me change the deep and ideological decision not to join
The Labor leader said her party is preparing to be an
effective opposition, mentioning a seminar held for new MKs and assistants to
learn about the budget and how to foil “evil proposals.”
that Netanyahu plans to make drastic cuts that will hurt the lower and middle
classes, and that her party will not stop fighting it.
“We’ll have an
opposition of at least 50 MKs, and we won’t give in at all,” Labor faction
leader MK Isaac Herzog said.
“The government will ask for an extension,
and we’ll fight it.”
Later on Monday, Netanyahu’s office issued a request
to postpone by a week the Knesset recess set to begin next Thursday, so that the
new coalition, which must be formed by March 16, can quickly pass a bill
extending the time to pass a budget from 45 to 90 days.