Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has started getting more personally involved in the effort to form his next government, as the May 6 deadline gets closer.
Netanyahu formally received a two-week extension to form a government Monday morning from President Reuven Rivlin. After May 6, Rivlin can ask any MK to form a government except for Netanyahu.
In recent days, Netanyahu has met personally with all the heads of the parties he intends to bring into the 67-MK coalition he is forming.
He faced criticism and muscle-flexing from all of them.
Monday night, Netanyahu met Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, while Kulanu representatives were meeting the Likud’s negotiating team.
Kahlon complained about efforts by the Likud to shift the Supreme Court rightward by adding more politicians to the judicial selection committee.
In a meeting billed as having a “good atmosphere,” the two men "made progress," a statement issued by both Likud and Kulanu said. A follow-up session has been scheduled for Tuesday.
Sources in Bayit Yehudi revealed that an ultimatum issued by party leader Naftali Bennett via Twitter at 11:30 Sunday night was first presented by Bennett to Netanyahu on Friday.
“Unilaterally taking the Religious portfolio from the religious-Zionist [camp] and delivering it to Shas ends negotiations with Bayit Yehudi,” Bennett wrote.
Sources in the Bayit Yehudi negotiating team complained that portfolios the party has demanded were being given to smaller factions, such as Religious Services to Shas and apparently the Foreign Ministry to Yisrael Beytenu. The sources said Bayit Yehudi is not bluffing and is ready to go to the opposition.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, who is part of the Likud negotiating team, responded that “threats on Twitter don’t work for Likud” and recalled that former National Union leader Ya’acov Katz was left out of the coalition in 2009 because his demands were too high.
“I don’t believe that negotiating through threats and other means is appropriate,” Elkin told Army Radio.
“Some of the parties who are our natural partners in the nationalist camp need to realize that in order to form a coalition ruled by our camp, there needs to be a limit to the incessant demands.”
Possible solutions to the fight over the Religious Services portfolio include a rotation between Shas and Bayit Yehudi and giving the portfolio to a Likud MK, such as Elkin, with deputies from both parties.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman complained to Netanyahu about too much being given to Shas and United Torah Judaism, resulting in negotiations with those parties. His complaints forced understandings reached with two haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties to be reconsidered and distanced deals with them.
Netanyahu told Rivlin that coalition talks had advanced, but he would need more time to complete negotiations to build a stable government.
Rivlin granted the request because party heads who recommended he form the government had not changed their minds, but he urged the prime minister to complete the task as soon as possible.
“The entire nation of Israel wants you to succeed,” Rivlin told Netanyahu.