Likud sources: PM offered Bennett top jobs

Source says offer conditioned on Bayit Yehudi becoming first party to join coalition; Bayit Yehudi accuses Likud of political spin.

Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Likud Beytenu offered Bayit Yehudi the Education Ministry, a top socioeconomic portfolio, and a deputy defense minister who would deal with settlements, Likud sources said on Tuesday.
A Likud source said the offer was conditioned on Bayit Yehudi conducting marathon coalition talks over 48 hours to become the first party to join the coalition.
The source said the offer was an upgrade over what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett when he met with him on Monday.
“We made a generous offer we hope they will accept,” a Likud official said.
At a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Bennett was asked whether he was offered the Education portfolio.
He said, “No, we’re not talking jobs or positions yet.
The coalition structure is unclear. First you decide who’s in the government and then you decide who does what.”
Bayit Yehudi sources vigorously denied receiving such an offer, calling it political spin from the Likud. They said Netanyahu was trying to leak false reports to the press in an effort to pressure Bennett to make compromises.
Channel 2 reported that the Likud offered Bayit Yehudi control over the Religious Services Ministry in addition the Education portfolio.
“Netanyahu is trying to break the understandings we have reached with Yesh Atid, but he will not succeed," a source in the party said.
The prime minister has an interest in breaking the bond between Bennett and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, because it has made it much more difficult for him to form a coalition. As long as the bond in tact, Netanyahu cannot form a coalition without either party.
Bennett told the delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that although he and Lapid did not agree on everything, there was a common denominator between them on issues such as equalizing the burden of military service, expanding national service and the need for a strong economy.
He also mocked Shas for judging him based on the size of his kippa and said he respected Netanyahu.
“There is a rare, once in a generation opportunity to form a coalition that will change the shape of things here,” Bennett said.
Coalition negotiating teams from Likud Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi met on Tuesday to discuss how to equalize the burden of IDF service. MK Uri Ariel, who heads Bayit Yehudi’s negotiating team, said following the meeting that his party had doubts and questions about the Likud’s plan, but Likud negotiator David Shimron defended it.
“The plan would substantially equalize the burden of service in a reasonable way without setting limits [on the number of haredim who stay in yeshiva],” Shimron told reporters at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Maccabiah Hotel after the meeting.
But a Yesh Atid official called the Likud plan worse than the much-maligned, expired “Tal Law,” which was supposed to facilitate haredi enlistment but did not succeed as much as intended. The official said his party was ready to compromise on how to equalize the burden of service, but it had not received a serious proposal from the Likud to counter the plan of Yesh Atid.
Shas co-chairman Eli Yishai lashed out at Netanyahu, telling Army Radio that his sense was that the prime minister preferred to form a government with Yesh Atid and not Shas. He also blasted Lapid.
“Lapid himself simply doesn’t want to serve [in the coalition] with us, and nothing will convince him otherwise,” Yishai said.
Jeremy Sharon and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.