Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi and Kadima formed a bloc of 33 Knesset mandates on
Wednesday night, and demanded that they receive the Foreign and Finance
ministries, a Yesh Atid official told The Jerusalem Post.
The three parties together have two more MKs than Likud
Beytenu, and will not join the coalition if their demands are not met. However
if they receive two of the three top-tier portfolios, they will support Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for a full, four-year term, according to the source.
leader Yair Lapid denied Wednesday night that Yesh Atid and Bayit
Yehudi had given Netanyahu an ultimatum over portfolios.
Facebook post, Lapid wrote that "it is not true and not
honorable...Netanyahu is the one forming the government and neither of
us would give an ultimatum to the prime minister."
Lapid has a penchant for dealing in semantics. Last week, the Yesh
Atid leader said he does not boycott any person, including haredim, but
that he refuses to sit in a government with Shas or UTJ.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said on Wednesday that there is nothing
barring Netanyahu from reserving the portfolio for Yisrael Beytenu chairman
Avigdor Liberman until the trial against him is resolved.
minister can hold additional portfolios at his will and even without an
“arrangement,” the prime minister could give Liberman any post at any time
(presuming he is found innocent in the trial against him), the attorney-general
said. Weinstein added that all of the issues involved in the portfolio question
were political and not legal, giving him no reason to get
Further, he rejected any concern that Liberman “hovering” over
the future of the Foreign Ministry would pressure ministry workers into changing
their testimony against Liberman, out of concern that he might retaliate in the
Weinstein announced his position on the issue, in response to a
request from Labor MK Merav Michaeli and OMETZ watchdog group head Aryeh Avneri
to rule on the issue and demand a commitment from Netanyahu not to follow
through with the alleged backroom agreement.
Michaeli slammed Weinstein’s
decision to allow Netanyahu to “hold” the Foreign Ministry portfolio for
The Labor MK said the attorney- general’s decision “harms the
ability of Foreign Ministry employees to testify freely” against Liberman, who
is on trial on charges of corruption.
demanded the Foreign Ministry in coalition talks, while Netanyahu told him it
was being saved for Liberman, and offered him the Finance Ministry.
Lapid refuses the Finance Ministry, it is likely to be offered to Bayit Yehudi
chairman Naftali Bennett.
Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi are at odds over the
number of ministries in the next government, with the former hoping to keep its
campaign promise of 18 portfolios, and the latter aiming to get four for its own
party, which would likely mean a total of 22-23 ministers, or one for every
three MKs in the coalition.
In a meeting between Netanyahu and Bennett
earlier this week, the Bayit Yehudi leader said he would be willing for there to
be up to 25 ministers, if it would mean avoiding feuds within Likud Beytenu
because of competition over portfolios.
Earlier on Wednesday, Yesh Atid
canceled coalition talks, saying Likud Beytenu is insisting on a government with
28 ministers, while the latter called Lapid’s party’s claims “transparent
A senior Likud Beytenu source said that “Yesh Atid is trying to
distract the public from the bigger question. Why, when throughout the election
Lapid asked, ‘Where’s the money,’ he has yet to respond to our offer to be the
next finance minister, in the place where the money is found and changes and
reforms can be made.”
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan
(Likud Beytenu) accused Yesh Atid of being afraid of Lapid becoming finance
minister and needing to make unpopular decisions.
“That’s not part of
‘new politics,’” Erdan said, referring to a Yesh Atid slogan, “so they’re trying
to make it seem like an argument about values.”
According to Erdan, Likud
Beytenu is not seeking a government with 28 ministers, rather, it intends to
“significantly reduce” the number of portfolios from the outgoing government,
which had 30.
In addition, Erdan told Army Radio, there will be no
ministers-without-portfolio, which is another of Yesh Atid’s
Still, Yesh Atid MK and close Lapid ally Ofer Shelah said on
Wednesday afternoon that Likud Beytenu is insisting on 28 ministers.
about Lapid rejecting the Finance Ministry is “spin manufactured by the Likud,”
Still, when asked on Army Radio whether Lapid wants the
position, Shelah said that “Yesh Atid deserves one of the three senior
portfolios [the Foreign, Finance and Defense ministries]. We won’t discuss which
one until we get an answer to our demand on the number of
Another Yesh Atid source close to Lapid said the party will
not be flexible and allow even one more ministry.
“When the next budget
is passed, there are going to be major cuts and the public will have to pay. In
that situation, it’s not fair for their money to go to an overinflated
government,” she said.
The source said Likud Beytenu concerns that a
shrinking number of portfolios would mean that some of the list’s current
ministers would be demoted to MKs were “irrelevant as far as Yesh Atid is