Netanyahu to ask for coalition extension Monday

Likud, Kulanu teams burn midnight oil.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
April 20, 2015 00:45
2 minute read.
The Knesset

The Knesset . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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President Reuven Rivlin will formally grant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two more weeks to form a governing coalition Monday morning in a ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.

The prime minister will brief the president on how coalition talks are going before they deliver a joint statement to the press. Netanyahu will have until May 6 to build a coalition after not succeeding at finalizing a deal with any party through the first four weeks of negotiations.

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The Likud negotiating team will hold lengthy meetings with representatives of Bayit Yehudi and Kulanu at the Knesset Monday in an effort to draft coalition agreements. A source on Kulanu's negotiating team said talks with Likud would continue "until the middle of the night" and would still not finalize a deal.

However, Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett  suggested in a tweet  early Monday morning that negotiations to form a coalition with Likud had come to an impasse, writing:  "Unilaterally taking the religious portfolio from religious Zionist and delivering it to Shas ends negotiations with Bayit Yahudi."

In the meantime, talks with UTJ went on for so long that negotiations with Shas were postponed from Sunday to Monday. UTJ is due back for more talks with Likud on Monday following the negotiations with Shas.

Most of the time in the talks is spent negotiating key elements in the coalition agreement, matters of religion and state, and specifics regarding what will be included in the 2015 state budget.

Likud sources said Netanyahu was going to Beit Hanassi Monday morning, two days ahead of Wednesday night's deadline to ask for an extension, just in order to enable the president to prepare for Remembrance Day ceremonies and not due to the state of the talks. They said Netanyahu still hoped to complete deals with Kulanu, Shas, and UTJ by the time Remembrance Day starts Tuesday evening.



Only when deals with those parties are completed will negotiations get into high gear with Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu. Likud officials confirmed a Channel 2 report that Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon insisted that the coalition be wider than 61 MKs, which would necessitate adding Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu or the Zionist Union.

Likud officials refuted a report in Ha'aretz Sunday that Netanyahu was considering trying to persuade Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to break off from his faction with another seven MKs who would join the coalition and receive portfolios.
But Zionist Union officials said they believed the report and said that Netanyahu would not hesitate to attempt such a maneuver.

"I read in Ha'aretz that the Likud is fantacizing about breaking up the Zionist Union, but relax," Herzog wrote on Twitter. "Whoever imagines he can split us will fall into the deep chasm that he said exists between us."

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