Yair Lapid 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is warming up to the idea of becoming finance
minister, party sources said on Saturday, a week before Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s deadline to form a government.
Lapid and Netanyahu met on
Friday for talks their spokeswomen called “positive, with much progress made,”
and on Saturday evening in a meeting that had not ended at press
Likud Beytenu’s and Bayit Yehudi’s negotiating teams also met on
The coalition most likely will be composed of 23-24
ministers, with 12 from Likud Beytenu, five or six from Yesh Atid, four from
Bayit Yehudi, two from Hatnua and one from Kadima.
Lapid has held out
because he prefers the Foreign Ministry, but Netanyahu stood his ground, saying
he will keep his promise to Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman to save
the portfolio for him until his corruption trial ends.
Yesh Atid wants
the Education Ministry for MK Shai Piron. However the current minister, Gideon
Sa’ar of Likud Beytenu, has said he would like to remain in his post, and if
Netanyahu backs Sa’ar, Piron may be given the Welfare portfolio.
party also hopes to take the Interior Ministry for MK Yael German or MK Meir
Cohen, in which case Industry, Trade and Labor would be the most senior
portfolio left for Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett.
A senior Bayit
Yehudi source said Bennett was likely to take the ministry, but with an
“expansion.” One possibility is to add responsibility for the Public Diplomacy
Although it is a less likely scenario at this point, Bayit
Yehudi hopes that Lapid will turn down the Finance Ministry, which is the
portfolio Bennett wants most, a source close to the party’s negotiating team
explained. However, if Lapid takes it, Bayit Yehudi will not fight.
source said that many in the party think Bennett deserves the Interior Ministry
if the Yesh Atid leader takes Finance, “but Lapid doesn’t want to budge,”
keeping the Interior portfolio for his party.
“We want a top-five
Tzipi Livni in a higher position [as justice minister] than
Bennett is unfair,” he added, pointing out that current Industry, Trade and
Labor Minister Shalom Simhon was second in Independence, a five-MK party no
longer in the Knesset.
The uppermost tier of ministries is considered to
be Finance, Foreign and Defense.
The latter most likely will go to Vice
Premier Moshe Ya’alon of Likud Beytenu. The Justice Ministry, which Hatnua
chairwoman Livni received in her deal with Likud Beytenu, and Education and
Interior, are at the next level of prestige.
Still, Bayit Yehudi has made
the Construction and Housing, and Religious Services portfolios, which will
probably go to MKs Uri Ariel and Eli Ben-Dahan, respectively, a priority, and
may need to be flexible with Bennett’s position to get them.
has also asked that the Religious Services Ministry be expanded to include
responsibility for conversions, which currently are overseen by the Prime
Minister’s Office, and other religious matters.
In addition, MK Uri
Orbach, a close Bennett ally, is expected to become a minister.
government is sworn in this week, Bayit Yehudi may not be able to participate
because of a party bylaw that requires its central committee to ratify the
One option being weighed is to email central
committee members the proposed agreement and hold the vote by phone.
2003, the ministers from Bayit Yehudi’s predecessor, the National Religious
Party, were not sworn in together with the rest of the government for that