MK Oren Hazan.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) expressed pessimism in closed conversations on Tuesday about the chances of forming a national unity government ahead of the next general election.
There have been more and more rumors over the past week that efforts are underway behind the scenes to expand the coalition and form such a government.
However, Hanegbi downplayed the efforts, in which he has not been involved.
“I would be very happy if the Zionist Union entered the government, but I am pessimistic,” Hanegbi said. “I don’t think [Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor] Liberman is interested either, so we will have to do our best with what we have.”
Hanegbi said he was sure a two-year budget would be passed, which could enable the current coalition to last until the end of 2018. He mocked the opposition for celebrating what he called “passing six votes out of 6,000,” though 11 votes were actually passed.
Regarding the recent rebellion of Likud MKs David Amsalem and Avraham Neguise, Hanegbi said they were “creating chaos” and that their behavior was “unprecedented.” He revealed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited them to meet with him to explain their demands about bringing in Ethiopian immigrants but they refused to come.
“They need to come down from the tree,” said Hanegbi, who also praised rebel MK Oren Hazan for becoming more obedient.
According to his agreement with Netanyahu, Hanegbi is set to become a minister on May 14, a year after the government was formed. He said he did not know which portfolio he will receive.
The current portfolios available in Likud are Economy and Communications, which are both held by Netanyahu.
Hanegbi said he was not interested in the former but that if another Likud minister is given one of the portfolios, he could receive whatever ministry they leave behind.
There had been talk that the Economy portfolio could go to Kulanu’s Environment Minister Avi Gabbay, in return for the party agreeing to the appointment of two Likud ministers.
In such a scenario, Hanegbi could return to the Environment Ministry, which he headed from 2001 to 2003.
Hanegbi said he would have been happy to receive that portfolio, but Kulanu rejected the proposal.
One issue that could complicate such appointments is that Netanyahu is desperate to pass his controversial gas deal, for which he currently does not have enough votes.
Netanyahu asked Social Welfare Minister Haim Katz, who has refused to vote for the deal due to a conflict of interest, to quit the Knesset.
The next candidate on the Likud list, Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick, supports the deal.
But Katz declined to quit, forcing Netanyahu to seek another solution. Liberman told his faction on Monday that Netanyahu will not receive its support.
“We won’t save the coalition when [Netanyahu] prevents any Yisrael Beytenu bill from passing,” he said.