(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog’s spokesman refuted reports of late night coalition negotiations at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence Monday night.
Rumors spread after Netanyahu met at his residence with Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, with whom Herzog was paired off at the Knesset, at a time when Herzog was uncharacteristically unreachable. Shas leader Arye Deri’s reaction to the rumors added to the speculation.
“I very much hope that the rumors of the start of negotiations between Likud and the Zionist Union are correct,” Deri wrote on Twitter. “I hope when we wake up, we will be told that a wide unity government has been formed for the good of Israel.”
The secretary-general of the Labor Party, MK Hilik Bar, responded to Deri on Twitter: “Is there something you know that we in the Zionist Union don’t? The negotiations were apparently between Bibi and Netanyahu.”
Even after Herzog issued a firm denial, Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit criticized the head of his party.
“Labor will not be Netanyahu’s life preserver,” Margalit said. “Netanyahu must be replaced, not saved.”
The rumors were seen as part of a pressure campaign by Netanyahu against United Torah Judaism, which is threatening to leave the coalition over compromises the prime minister made regarding the Western Wall. Kulanu opposes a UTJ-sponsored bill that would overturn a Supreme Court decision allowing non-Orthodox Jews access to public ritual baths.
But Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said he still had hope the coalition could be expanded, rather than fall apart due to such disagreements.
“I am still continuing my efforts to expand the coalition,” Kahlon told reporters at the Knesset.
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