Lapid vows not to join coalition with Shas

Yesh Atid leader quoted in closed conversations as declaring he will not sit together with Shas in Netanyahu's government.

Lapid at Knesset 370 (photo credit: Uriel Sinai/Reuters)
Lapid at Knesset 370
(photo credit: Uriel Sinai/Reuters)
MK Yair Lapid ruled out that his Yesh Atid party would join Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government together with Shas, according to a report on Channel 10 Thursday night.
Lapid had been careful for months not to veto the participation of haredi parties in the coalition. But the Yesh Atid leader was quoted in closed conversations on Thursday vowing not to sit together with Shas.
“I am not even considering entering a government with Shas,” Lapid said, according to the report. “If I will be in the traditional photograph at the President’s Residence the day the government is sworn in standing next to a minister from Shas, my political career is over.”
A Yesh Atid spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that Lapid made such a statement.
One party source clarified that Lapid would only say such things if Shas continued to refuse to compromise on key issues related to equalizing the burden of IDF service.
The source said that if Shas demonstrated flexibility, Lapid and the rest of the Yesh Atid faction would have no problem cooperating with the party.
Shas co-chairman Arye Deri responded that “Lapid apparently is not aware that those who care about the good of the state and avoiding a national rift do not resort to boycotting other parties.”
Deri said that Shas would “continue to behave responsibly and sensitively on all issues to achieve a broad consensus.”
A Yesh Atid official who is particularly close to Lapid said this week that his party wanted to help the haredim, not fight them. The official said the party leadership realized that compromising with Shas inside the government would be much more effective than joining a coalition with no haredi parties and trying to force their proposals on the haredim.
The Yesh Atid official hinted that later on in coalition talks, after matters of principle have been decided and negotiations on portfolios have begun, his party would push for the Foreign Ministry for Lapid. The official said his party deserved one of the top three portfolios and vowed that it would not give its top ministry to an outside appointment, such as an economist to be finance minister.
Following reports that former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman would insist on returning to his former post, Lapid was quoted as saying that he did not consider himself qualified to be defense minister or finance minister. Lapid gained leverage that he could use to obtain the Foreign Ministry when Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett prevented Netanyahu from forming a government without Yesh Atid.
Netanyahu attempted this week to woo Bayit Yehudi into a coalition with Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Kadima and the Tzipi Livni Party that would exclude Yesh Atid. The prime minister offered Bennett the Education portfolio that religious Zionist parties traditionally sought.
Bennett rejected the offer and maintained his understandings with Lapid that neither party would join a coalition without the other.
Likud officials said they expected Bennett to eventually cave in and accept Netanyahu’s offer, but UTJ MKs appeared to accept their fate that they will not be in the coalition.
Following a meeting with Bennett on Thursday, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni said there was a strong possibility his party would end up in the opposition. He said that whether or not his party would join the coalition, he would do everything possible to prevent harm to haredim from the proposals that seek to equalize the burden of service.