The Knesset building in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
United Torah Judaism and Shas intend to sign deals to enter Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s next government by the end of the week in time for the Passover holiday, members of their coalition negotiating teams said Sunday night.
The Likud met with the negotiating teams of both Shas and UTJ Sunday in their third meeting with each party. Talks with Shas at the Knesset started close to 10 p.m.
“Neither party has a problem with portfolios, only ideology,” a source in the Shas negotiating team said ahead of the talks.
“We are coordinated on what we are still trying to get from the Likud, and we are fighting for it together.”
A source on Likud’s negotiating team said both haredi parties have been expediting talks in a serious manner in an effort to complete them quickly.
The Likud does not intend to hold a second meeting with Bayit Yehudi’s team until Tuesday and Yisrael Beytenu’s until Wednesday. Coalition negotiations between Likud and its top coalition partner, Kulanu, began at the Knesset for the first time Sunday night.
Kulanu canceled talks that were set to take place Thursday after party leader Moshe Kahlon was upset the Knesset Finance Committee chairmanship had reportedly been given to United Torah Judaism.
“We asked for tools to work, not ministers or ambassadors,” Kahlon said in a speech to Kulanu activists in Airport City. “I am not ready to enter that trap. If you don’t give us the tools, we won’t be there. We’re not extortioners.
I have proven I can give up a post on principle.”
Kahlon said he would insist Kulanu receive control over the Israel Lands Authority that is currently part of the Construction and Housing Ministry as well as the Building Planning Committee which is part of the Interior Ministry. Shas is fighting not to give up the latter from the Interior portfolio, which will go to party leader Arye Deri.
Kulanu’s negotiating team members told their Likud counterparts they would insist on coordinating all socioeconomic steps with their party before they are finalized with other coalition partners. In an effort to reach out to Kulanu, Netanyahu asked his adviser Eugene Kandel to draft a bill that would enable national projects to bypass the usual governmental approval bureaucracy.
The Kulanu negotiating team includes former Kadima MK Avigdor Yitzhaki, former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s political adviser Erez Halfon, and attorney Alon Gellert, who has worked for multiple parties.
“We are here to receive the tools necessary to reach the goal that Moshe Kahlon set when forming Kulanu: making Israel a better place to live in,” said Gellert.
MK Ze’ev Elkin, one of the Likud’s negotiators, said the goal of the talks would be to see how the parties can work together to fulfill the country’s socioeconomic needs – lowering the cost of living and solving the housing shortage.
“To tackle these issues, the prime minister must cooperate with his designated finance minister,” Elkin said, referring to Kahlon. “We’re going to succeed and form a good government to bring results to the people of Israel.”
A Kulanu source said the party would obtain every necessary commitment and every necessary post to implement the party’s reforms. The source said any Kulanu MK could head the Knesset Finance Committee, including Kahlon’s No. 2, former general Yoav Galant.
“We will make sure we don’t fail like [former finance minister Yair] Lapid,” the source said.