Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett is making common cause with his right-wing rival, Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, in a bid to bolster both men’s bargaining position in coalition talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 2 reported on Friday.
According to the network, Bennett and Liberman reached an agreement whereby the former would drop his demand to be named foreign minister - Liberman’s current position - in exchange for the latter’s assistance in obtaining other key portfolios while thwarting any attempt by Netanyahu to form a national unity government with the center-left Zionist Union.
The two nationalist politicians were vocal critics of Netanyahu’s handling of Operation Protective Edge, frequently second-guessing what they perceived to be the premier’s timid strategy in defeating Hamas.
According to Channel 2, Liberman is aiding Bennett’s quest to obtain the Religious Affairs Ministry, which is also being coveted by Shas chairman Aryeh Deri.
Netanyahu met with both men separately in Jerusalem on Friday, with Likud officials reportedly flabbergasted at what they deemed Liberman’s “illogical” demands.
The foreign minister spelled out his preconditions for Yisrael Beytenu’s entry into a Likud-led government - “liquidation” of Hamas and legislation mandating the death penalty for convicted terrorists.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, is aiming to cobble together a coalition that has the support of 67 parliamentarians. Such a government would include the ruling Likud, Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi, Liberman’s faction, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, Shas, and the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism.
Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog is closely monitoring the coalition negotiations. Sources told Channel 2 that he is anxiously awaiting the outcome of the talks so that he could go public with an official declaration effectively ruling out participation in a Netanyahu government.