|Netanyahu in Knesset alone 311.(Photo by: REUTERS)|
PM preempts Peres by building broad coalition
By Gil Stern Stern HOFFMAN
Netanyahu, Lapid seek compromise deal to enable Bayit Yehudi, Shas, Livni and Kadima to join government.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to the heads of all the Zionist parties
in the Knesset over the past two days and invited them to coalition talks on the
formation of the widest possible government.
Netanyahu hopes to form a
coalition of at least 80 MKs to ensure that none of the parties in the coalition
could topple him by leaving, including the 19-MK Yesh Atid
Netanyahu and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid are expected to
compromise on which parties will be included in the coalition.
Netanyahu agree on including Bayit Yehudi and Kadima, but differ on the rest of
the coalition. Netanyahu wants Shas and United Torah Judaism while Lapid prefers
The Tzipi Livni Party.
Netanyahu is expected to give in on Livni being
included and UTJ excluded, while Lapid will most likely agree to the inclusion
of Shas. Those compromises would lead to the formation of an 81-MK coalition of
Likud Beytenu, Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi, Shas, Kadima, and The Tzipi Livni
The prime minister’s preliminary talks with the parties are
intended to preempt their meetings with President Shimon Peres next
Netanyahu wants to have a coalition in hand on paper before the
parties make their recommendations to Peres on whom he should designate to form
the next government.
Netanyahu will then send his lawyers to meet with
party representatives and draw up coalition agreements, with a goal of
completing the formation of his new government by the time he leaves for
Washington in the first week of March.
Speaking at a special plenary
dedicated to the Middle East at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,
on Thursday, Peres said he would be unable to provide headlines on the
“We welcome the elections in Israel. At the moment we cannot
guess which way the new government will face and who will be in it. We must wait
patiently until Wednesday when the official results will be published,” he said.
“Afterwards, according to the law, I will consult with all the elected groups in
the Knesset. Until then I won’t be able to comment further on the
In an effort to build the kind of partnership needed for a
stable government, Netanyahu met Thursday at his official residence in Jerusalem
In the meeting, they made a point of discussing policy
issues, not portfolios.
“The prime minister and Mr. Lapid
discussed the challenges facing the nation and ways to deal with them,” the two
men said in a joint statement. “The meeting, which lasted two-anda- half-hours,
was held in a very good atmosphere, and it was agreed that they would meet again
While Netanyahu already called Lapid, Shas and UTJ leaders on the
night of the election and Livni on Wednesday, he waited until Thursday to call
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett. Sources in Bayit Yehudi said they
received an impression that the prime minister was trying to lower Bennett’s
asking price for joining the coalition.
Mofaz told the prime minister
that he had a rare opportunity to form a centrist government.
invited Labor and Meretz to meet with him, even though he knew they would not
agree to enter his coalition.
“My faction will be a sharp and difficult
opposition to you,” Labor Party chairwoman Yacimovich said she told Netanyahu.
“He knows better than others how deep the chasm is between our parties on
socioeconomic issues. I won’t contribute to the collapse of Israeli society [in
exchange] for seats in the coalition.”
Netanyahu intends to form a
smaller cabinet than in his last government, at Lapid’s
Netanyahu has told Likud ministers that they will not all return
in his next government.
While Yesh Atid has refused to discuss
portfolios, Netanyahu appears to want Lapid as his foreign minister, and not
former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman.
One likely scenario is that
Liberman would be told he could become finance minister if he overcomes his
legal problems, which caused him to resign from the cabinet in
In radio interviews, Liberman tried to push Lapid to accept a
socioeconomic portfolio such as Finance rather than seek the Foreign
“Someone who spoke all the time about the middle class,
socioeconomic problems and rising prices should not choose to deal with the
middle class in Greece or Portugal,” Liberman said.
Also on Thursday, PLO
Secretary- General Yasser Abed Rabbo said that Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas intends to invite MKs from centrist and left-wing parties to meet
with him in Ramallah.
Ynet reported that the PA plans first and foremost
to invite Lapid, but also lawmakers from Labor, Meretz and the Likud.
from Bayit Yehudi will not be invited to meet with Abbas, the website reported.