Coalition talks continued Monday night, with sides agreeing to having a 21
minister government, and a battle raging between Yesh Atid and Likud Beytenu
over the education ministry.
Following three and a half hours of talks
between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, MK Avigdor Liberman, Yesh Atid leader
Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, the parties agreed there
would be 20 ministers, not including Netanyahu or Liberman who will become
Foreign Minister after his corruption trial, and eight deputy
Sources in the three parties are hopeful that the talks would
end on Tuesday, so the coalition can be sworn in this week.
Likud Beytenu sources accused Lapid of drawing out talks until the Friday
deadline, in order to pressure Netanyahu into giving Yesh Atid the ministries it
Likud Beytenu will receive 11 portfolios, with seven for Likud and
four for Yisrael Beytenu, Yesh Atid will get four or five, Bayit Yehudi will
take three and Hatnua, two.
While most coalitions usually have the same
ministerial index - the set proportion of ministers to MKs in each party - for
all parties, this one will be more generous to Likud Beytenu, while the other
parties will have the same index.
Yesh Atid will have four portfolios if
they are willing to give up one for Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, which party
sources indicated they would consider on Monday afternoon. If not, it is unclear
if Mofaz will stay out of the government, leaving the coalition with 68 seats,
or if he would accept a deputy minister position.
Meanwhile, Yesh Atid
and Likud Beytenu are still at odds over the Education Ministry, in a battle of
number twos - current Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is second on the
Likud list, versus MK Shai Piron.
A senior Likud source said Monday night
that the party insists on continuing to hold the portfolio.
Education Ministry under Gideon Sa'ar had great achievements in the last four
years, and the prime minister is interest in the continued success of Israeli
students, as we saw in international tests, where we reached the top ten," the
Piron, former rabbi of Petah Tikva Yeshiva and the chairman
of an educational NGO, has said that Lapid was able to convince him to enter
politics by saying he could be the next Education Minister.
becomes Education Minister, Sa'ar is likely to get the Interior Ministry. If
Sa'ar is Education Minister, Piron may get Welfare, and either MK Yael German or
MK Meir Cohen, both of Yesh Atid, would take Interior.
Bayit Yehudi is trying to make up for the ministry it lost in the last days of
negotiations by expanding the three it has left.
For example, Bennett
will most likely receive the Public Diplomacy portfolio, in addition to
Industry, Trade and Labor, and the Religious Services portfolio, which the Bayit
Yehudi will also receive, will include conversion and other services not
currently under the ministry's authority.
The Bayit Yehudi is also
demanding that the Housing and Construction Ministry include the Israel Lands
Authority, as it did in the past.
In January, Netanyahu promised outgoing
Welfare Minister Moshe Kachlon, who did not run in the last election, the
chairmanship of the ILA, which would become part of the Prime Minister's
However, the Bayit Yehudi opposes the move, which the party says
would render expected Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel
One option that was raised as an alternative to not installing
Kachlon as ILA chairman is to create a "Settlement Ministry," which would take
the remaining responsibilities of the Housing portfolio, plus the settlement
department in the Negev and Galilee Department, as well as the authorities of
the Jerusalem Ministry, which was supposed to be the Bayit Yehudi's fourth
A Bayit Yehudi source said the party would only accept the
Settlement Ministry proposal if Ariel is able to build in Jerusalem and Judea
and Samaria without approval from the Defense Ministry or Kachlon.
Likud Beytenu would never accept that, so they will have to get rid of Kachlon,"
the source said.