(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas leader Arye Deri refused to give in on Saturday night on the one remaining issue of cabinet portfolios preventing the formation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fourth government ahead of Wednesday’s deadline.
Deri confirmed that he will be given the Economy portfolio held by Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett in the outgoing government, and that he also would become religious affairs minister.
Bayit Yehudi has demanded to receive a deputy minister under Deri in the Religious Services Ministry, and in return has offered Shas a deputy in the Education Ministry under Bennett.
“A minister must represent all sectors and that is what I intend to do,” Deri told Channel 10. “Just as I trust Bennett to serve us in the Education Ministry, he must trust me. I won’t let the Religious Services Ministry be divided among different interests.”
Deri said gaps between Likud and Shas were decreasing and there would be a meeting on Sunday in an effort to finalize a deal. He said he wished the Zionist Union also would join the government, but he acknowledged this was unlikely.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has threatened to remain outside the coalition if his demands on ideological issues are not met. Without Yisrael Beytenu’s six MKs, Netanyahu’s coalition would have a razor-thin 61-59 majority.
Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon appeared to backtrack on Saturday night on his promise not to enter a government without Liberman. In an interview on Channel 2’s Meet the Press program, he criticized the possibility of a coalition without Yisrael Beytenu but did not rule it out.
“I think a government of 61 would be bad, especially with the challenges that await us,” Kahlon said. “I believe we will have a broader government.
Everything must be done to enable Netanyahu to form a wider government.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told a rally of supporters in Tel Aviv on Friday that following the deal the Likud signed with United Torah Judaism, Israel was going backward. He said he blamed Netanyahu, not the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) who are serving their constituency.
“Netanyahu is betraying the values of the nationalist camp and selling out all that is important for the State of Israel,” he said. “Yesh Atid will not be silent. We won’t let them sell out the country.”
At a cultural event on Saturday in Kfar Saba, Lapid said he intended to petition the High Court of Justice to prevent the Health Ministry from being run by United Torah Judaism chairman Ya’acov Litzman as a deputy minister. He complained in a letter he sent Netanyahu on Saturday night that deputy ministers, unlike ministers, do not have to take an oath of office.
“The Health Ministry cannot be led by a man who is not ready to pledge allegiance to the State Israel and receive the authority to run such an important office,” Lapid said. “He has no problem taking money from the public coffers and spending it. He has no problem sending our children to the army while not sending their children. He won’t sing the national anthem or pledge allegiance to the state.
This is a scandal and we cannot accept it.”
Lapid met over the weekend with Labor Party leader Issac Herzog and discussed strategy for how to unite the opposition against Netanyahu. Herzog also met over the last few days with Meretz chairman Zehava Gal-On and Joint