Netanyahu to ask for extension to form coalition

Likely partners agree to cancel limit on number of ministers; negotiations to continue Sunday after holidays hiatus.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – the elections were all about him (photo credit: REUTERS)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – the elections were all about him
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to ask President Reuven Rivlin for an extension to form the next government, the Likud confirmed Saturday night.
The request comes because of “a crowded schedule that included… Passover, Remembrance Day and Yom Ha’atzmaut and security events,” the party’s spokesman explained.
Netanyahu has yet to sign coalition agreements with a single one of his potential partners.
The first deadline to form a government is 28 days, meaning by Wednesday, and Rivlin can give Netanyahu an extension of up to 14 more days until May 29.
On Sunday, coalition negotiations are expected to pick up where they left off last week, before Remembrance Day and Independence Day. Likud’s negotiating team is expected to meet with its counterparts from Shas and the Union of Right-Wing Parties, in the first official talks since last Monday.
The likely members of the next coalition agreed to cancel the limitation of the number of ministers in the government, according to a report on Channel 12 on Saturday.
The agreement indicates that the next cabinet will be larger than the last two, with as many as 26 ministers, costing hundreds of millions of shekels to establish extra ministries and pay their staff.
The largest-ever government was in 2009-2013, with 30 ministers and nine deputy ministers. The subsequent government, from 2013 to 2015, passed a law limiting the number of ministers to 18, at the insistence of Yesh Atid. But after that, in 2015, the law was frozen via a temporary measure and that government was formed with 21 ministers.
Rather than a temporary measure, Netanyahu reportedly is seeking to change Basic Law: Government, so that the Knesset will not have to vote to approve increasing the number of ministers every time he makes a new appointment to the cabinet.
Adding to the cost of the measure is the plan to pass the “Norwegian Law,” which allows ministers to resign from the Knesset and for the next person on the party’s list to take their place, but for the ministers to re-take their places in the Knesset and for the newer MKs to automatically be kicked out if the ministers leave the cabinet for any reason.
Israel currently has a “mini-Norwegian Law,” which allows one minister or deputy minister per party to resign from the legislature under those conditions. With the expanded measure, there will be many more salaries paid by the government’s coffers for new MKs and three aides each.
“Netanyahu needs to establish a coalition that will turn the Knesset into his sanctuary city,” Blue and White MK Karin Elharar said. “Who is expected to pay the price? The public, of course. After Yesh Atid fought to fix the twisted culture of inflated portfolios that is only meant to satisfy partners and give out prizes for loyalty, Netanyahu intends to bring back the old situation.”

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