BENJAMIN NETANYAHU and finance minister Moshe Kahlon..
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied reports Monday that he only intends to present his next government to the Knesset in two weeks, five days after the May 6 deadline to form a coalition.
According to a loophole in the law, Netanyahu only needs to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he has formed a government within the six weeks he provided him to build a coalition, but he could continue the process afterward and present the government to the Knesset the following week.
“Those reports are incorrect nonsense,” a source close to Netanyahu said.
Likud officials reported additional progress in coalition talks that took place Monday with Kulanu and United Torah Judaism. A source in Kulanu’s negotiating team said during talks taking place at press time that a deal could be signed as early as Tuesday.
Netanyahu and Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon met together with their teams Sunday and another Kahlon meeting with the prime minister was seen as a possibility late Monday or early Tuesday. The prime minister postponed a meeting with Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett that had been set for Monday.
A source close to Bennett revealed that it was former education ministers Gideon Sa’ar and Yitzhak Levy who had persuaded him to request the education portfolio. But Netanyahu’s number two in the Likud, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, told Army Radio that he had also met with former education ministers and that he intended to fight for the portfolio.
“I don’t want to consider the option that the education portfolio will not remain in the hands of Likud,” Erdan said.
“The Likud must keep such an important portfolio, that has such an impact on bridging society’s gaps. Such a portfolio that impacts all children in Israel should not go to a sectarian party.”
One possibility is that Erdan will instead be given both the interior and internal security portfolios and that Shas leader Arye Deri, who had demanded to become interior minister, be given Bennett’s current economy portfolio bolstered with elements from other ministries.
Shas officials said Deri was upset the Likud offered him the transportation portfolio and then rescinded the offer when current transportation minister Israel Katz insisted on keeping the post.
“I haven’t gotten a serious offer yet,” Deri told the haredi radio station Kol Chai. “I have to remind Netanyahu that there is no government without Shas.”
Formal talks have not been set with Yisrael Beytenu but the party’s negotiator Moshe Lion met Monday at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel with Likud faction chairman Ze’ev Elkin. Yisrael Beytenu’s faction chairman, MK Robert Ilatov, said Monday that his party would not join a government that would not pass a law that would enable giving terrorists death sentences.