With no coalition agreements signed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday asked President Reuven Rivlin for a two-week extension in which to complete the task of forming a government.
The request comes one day ahead of the 28-day period granted him by law to form a coalition. The law provides for the extension period, but there is still speculation as to whether Netanyahu will succeed in forming a right-wing coalition, or whether in the final analysis he will have to turn to Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, who has publicly declared that his party will remain in the opposition.
Netanyahu and Rivlin spent 35 minutes discussing coalition issues before emerging from their huddle to make the briefest of statements to the media, which was not represented in large numbers at the President’s Residence because it was generally known that there were no surprises in store.
Netanyahu said that although significant progress had been made in coalition talks and he was on the way to forming a government, there were still agreements that needed to be finalized.
Rivlin agreed to the extension while noting that the maximum total time period that can be allowed by law is 42 days.
He wished Netanyahu luck and said that he knew that the whole country was waiting for the government to be declared so that important issues that cannot be decided by an interim government could be confronted.
Rivlin and Netanyahu returned to Rivlin’s office and continued their discussion for more than half an hour after making their statements to the media.
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.
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 Yehudi."
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 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."
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>