PM: I won't accept Bennett-Lapid haredim boycott

Peres gives PM 2 more weeks to form gov't; Lapid rejects any coalition with Shas, UTJ; Bennett: Likud boycotted us first.

Netanyahu and Peres 370 (photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Netanyahu and Peres 370
(photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu placed the blame for his failure to form a government on Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett on Saturday night, after receiving a two-week extension for coalition negotiations from President Shimon Peres.
“The reason there is no coalition so far is because there are boycotts of an entire public in the State of Israel and that does not match my views,” Netanyahu stated, sitting across from Peres in the press room at the President’s Residence in the capital.
Lapid publicly and explicitly stated for the first time Saturday night that he would not sit in the same coalition as ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, while Bayit Yehudi stuck to its commitment to enter a government only if Yesh Atid joins as well.
“When products made by settlers in Judea and Samaria are boycotted, we justly protest, and the people who need to understand this more than anyone is the settlers who are subjected to daily boycotts,” Netanyahu said.
“In my view, throughout our history, we underwent tragedies as a result of hatred and fighting between brothers, and when we look around us and see the tremendous challenges, we need to unite forces and not split up.”
The prime minister said he is doing all he can to unite the nation, working for four weeks to build the broadest coalition possible with an emphasis on economic issues and equality in the burden of national service, adding that these were issues on which the haredi public is willing to compromise.
“I want to use the coming days to try to form a wide government, and I hope party leaders will show responsibility. Responsibility and leadership, in my eyes, is to unite the nation and not divide it, and for that I need additional time,” Netanyahu concluded.
Peres granted the prime minister two more weeks to form a coalition, setting a March 16 deadline and saying that the country needs a stable, organized government as soon as possible to deal with security, diplomatic and social issues.
Earlier on Saturday, Lapid posted a lengthy status on his Facebook profile explaining that while he does not reject haredi people, he does not want to be in the same coalition as haredi parties.
“I do not believe that Shas and UTJ can sit in a government that will make the changes for which we went to elections: Changing the criteria for [subsidized] housing, core curriculum studies for all, equality in the burden of enlistment and the necessary cuts in yeshiva budgets....
This is the new civil agenda, which most citizens of this country support, but the haredi parties firmly oppose. That’s their right, but politicians have to be prepared to pay the price for their positions,” he wrote.
Lapid also criticized the haredi parties’ political tactics, writing that they do not accept the rules of the democratic game.
“No one likes to lose, but everyone accepts the basic idea that sometimes you’re in the coalition, and sometimes in the opposition,” he explained, adding that if Yesh Atid ends up in the opposition, they will go proudly, without feeling that someone hates or rejects them.
“Everyone, that is, except for the haredi parties,” he said.
Lapid pointed out that no matter what ideology won the last election – “Left, Right, socialist, capitalist, two-state solution or whole Land of Israel” – the ultra- Orthodox are always willing to be in the coalition.
“Did someone change the law and didn’t tell us? Can a government be formed with the Likud, without Labor, without Kadima, without Meretz, without Arab parties, without any party at all, but the haredim always have to be in the government, otherwise you’re boycotting and rejecting them? What kind of strange democracy is that?” the Yesh Atid leader wrote.
“The obvious conclusion is that no tragedy will happen if, in the next term, they sit in the opposition.”
Bennett published a similarly long manifesto on Facebook, accusing Likud Beytenu of boycotting Bayit Yehudi before accusing the latter of doing the same to ultra- Orthodox parties.
“The message from the Likud was simple: At no price will religious Zionism be in the government. Forget about it,” he wrote.
“While the prime minister met twice with Lapid, with [Hatnua chairwoman] Tzipi Livni, with [Labor leader] Shelly [Yacimovich], with [Kadima leader Shaul] Mofaz, and even with [Meretz leader] Zehava Gal-On, only religious Zionism was boycotted.
Likud said they want a government with the Left and haredim, explaining that they can’t have peace talks with the Bayit Yehudi in the coalition,” he said.
Bennett explained that he and Lapid agreed that neither would enter the coalition without the other, and that at the time, Likud Beytenu was pursuing Yesh Atid and snubbing Bayit Yehudi. He wrote that he intends to keep his word, even though the opposite is now true, because Netanyahu wants a government with the haredim and without Lapid.
“We don’t boycott any parties.
Not Shas, not UTJ. No one else, either. The only one who boycotted anyone was the Likud boycotting the Bayit Yehudi, and that is in the past,” Bennett wrote.
Bayit Yehudi chief negotiator MK Uri Ariel referred to Netanyahu’s comments on settlement boycotts, saying that “before the prime minister shoots arrows of criticism at the national-religious community in connection to boycotts and our connection to Yesh Atid, I would be happy to get a clear answer about how he explains his strange connection with Miss Tzipi Livni, whose agenda on boycotts and [construction] freezes on the settler population is known to all.”
On Friday, Bayit Yehudi MKs were busy responding to reports that Likud Beytenu negotiators told Yesh Atid representatives they needed Lapid’s party in the coalition, without Bayit Yehudi, in order to evacuate small settlements.
Coming out of talks with Bayit Yehudi, chief Likud Beytenu negotiator David Shomron called the reports “lies and deceit.”
MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), a close Bennett ally, chalked up the reports to attempts to break her party’s alliance with Yesh Atid.
“Likud Beytenu is playing a double game, in which they ask us to break the agreement with Lapid, and ask Lapid to break the agreement with us,” she explained. “The explanations as to why it’s important to split change depending on who is listening.”
Shaked expressed feelings that Likud Beytenu does not have “a truth or a clear ideology” in forming the coalition, calling the negotiations a game of poker.
“We will stand strong facing the attacks and pressures, and do all we can to help form a government that will deal with socioeconomic issues that are fundamental problems for the Israeli people,” she said.
Bennett and Netanyahu were planning to meet on Sunday, Likud Beytenu said.