Netanyahu and Bennett.
(photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the government's ongoing coalition-building impasse, the director-general of the Bayit Yehudi party warned of his constituency's growing dissatisfaction and said that "the ball is now in the prime minister's court."
"The national-religious community has undergone a change in recent years, we have stopped being the lap-dog of the country," said Nir Orbach in a interview with Israel radio.
"Enough, we won't be smacked around and be expected to come back crawling."
Bayit Yehudi, chaired by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, had been part of the previous Netanyahu-led coalition and is considered to be an integral part of his efforts to build a new right-wing government.
Yet drawn out negotiations, exceeding the 28 days allotted to the prime minister to form a government, have further strained already tense relations between the Likud leadership and their Bayit Yehudi counterparts.
In March, Bayit Yehudi officials threatened to retract their recommendation for a renewed Netanyahu-led government after Likud officials dismissed what Bennett claimed was a promise by the prime minister that he would be given the defense or foreign minister position.
Likud officials dismissed the threat, calling it "too pathetic for a serious response" and claiming that the conversation in which such an offer came up occurred when the electoral gap between the two parties was much narrower.
Since then, the rhetoric from Bayit Yehudi leaders has become more hostile.
"Without us there is no right-wing government," Orbach asserted, adding that "if we don't get what we want, regarding the basic guidelines for the government and the positions we deserve, then joining the opposition is indeed an option."
Tough negotiations have also marked the prime minister's talks with the haredi United Torah Judaism party, whose Sunday session with Netanyahu ran so long that their counterparts in Shas had to reschedule their own negotiations to Monday.
The potential for an empowered haredi presence in the next coalition has raised fears in Bayit Yehudi that the ultra-Orthodox parties would gain control of prized offices in the next government that it wants for itself.
Speaking on the possibility of such an outcome, Naftali Bennett warned that "unilaterally taking the religious portfolio from religious Zionists and delivering it to Shas ends negotiations with Bayit Yehudi."
On Monday, Netanyahu met with President Reuvin Rivlin to discuss getting more time to build a coalition, a request which Rivlin accommodated, setting the deadline for the formation of a government for May 6.