Likud: Deal with Bennett can be made immediately

Officials from both parties say deal is likely to be signed in coming days; former settler leader Ariel to be given Housing portfolio.

MK Uri Ariel 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
MK Uri Ariel 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
Likud Beytenu and the Bayit Yehudi are likely to sign a coalition agreement in the coming days, sources in both parties said on Tuesday.
The final deal is likely to give the Construction and Housing portfolio to MK Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi), a former Yesha Council secretary-general, which could allow for expansion of settlements, even though during the election campaign Likud Beytenu said it would keep the ministry for itself.
While the two parties have not yet discussed portfolios, Likud sources said the party plans to offer the Housing Ministry to Ariel, who is second on the Bayit Yehudi list and leader of its negotiating team. Likud Beytenu has previously leaked offers to the press before relaying them directly to the Bayit Yehudi.
The two parties plan to meet on Wednesday, following a meeting that lasted from Monday night until 3 a.m. Tuesday in which “significant progress was reached in a long line of issues,” according to a Likud spokeswoman.
“The Likud believes we can finish the negotiations for Bayit Yehudi to join the government led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately,” she added.
Bayit Yehudi is also expected to present its plan for equality in the burden of national service on Wednesday, which a Likud source said the party is likely to adopt.
A source close to the Bayit Yehudi negotiating team said that the party’s plan for haredi enlistment was coordinated with Yesh Atid, and that the agreement between the two parties is still strong.
However, a Yesh Atid spokesman said “all options are open” when it comes to coalition or opposition, and it seems that Yair Lapid’s party is preparing for the latter possibility.
Lapid made an appointment with Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On for next week, indicating that he will go head-to-head with Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich for the position of opposition leader.
While opposition leader automatically goes to the head of the largest party outside of the government, which would be Lapid if he stays out of the coalition, a majority of MKs in the opposition can vote in a different leader.
Yacimovich recently met with opposition party leaders to ask for their support.
Gal-On’s spokeswoman said she is inclined to support Yacimovich for the position, but will discuss the matter with the Meretz faction.
Arab parties are also likely to back the Labor leader, especially after Lapid coined the term “Zoabis” to describe Arab MKs, referencing controversial Balad MK Haneen Zoabi. The Yesh Atid leader apologized for the comment earlier this month.
Also on Tuesday, Channel 2 released a poll showing that, if a new election were held, Likud Beytenu would still win, with 28 seats, but with an even smaller margin over Yesh Atid, which would get 24 seats.
The Bayit Yehudi would gain two seats to get 14 altogether, while Shas and Meretz would go up one each, to 12 and seven, respectively.
The Tzipi Livni Party would lose half of its seats, getting only three, and Labor would lose three and have 12.
United Torah Judaism (7), Hadash (4), UAL-Ta’al (4), Balad (3) and Kadima (2) would remain the same, according to the Channel 2 poll.