Peres meets with factions over formulation of gov't

Parties backing Netanyahu for PM discuss portfolios; Yesh Atid seeks Foreign, Finance; Bayit Yehudi wants Interior, Justice.

Peres receives election results from Rubinstein 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
Peres receives election results from Rubinstein 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
As President Shimon Peres began the process of discussing with political parties whom to appoint to form the next government, parties recommending Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began to discuss which ministries they want.
Likud Beytenu and Yesh Atid, the two largest lists with 31 and 19 seats in the 19th Knesset, respectively, recommended Netanyahu to Peres, as 30 more MKs from Bayit Yehudi, Shas and United Torah Judaism are expected to do on Thursday.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who headed the joint Likud Beytenu delegation that met with Peres, recommended that he call on Netanyahu to assemble the next government because Likud Beytenu received more votes than any other list.
“It is clear that only one man, Binyamin Netanyahu, can form a government, and we want that government to be as broad and stable as possible,” Sa’ar said.
“We want a coalition as wide and as stable as possible to meet the challenges ahead,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said before meeting with Peres together with fellow Likud Beytenu ministers and MKs – Sa’ar, Yuval Steinitz, Ze’ev Elkin, Robert Ilatov and David Rotem.
Matters that were raised in discussion between the president and the delegation included the incoming government’s political platform, Iran, the economy, the budget, and equalizing the burden of national service.
The Yesh Atid party delegation, led by Yair Lapid, spent more time with Peres than Likud Beytenu did, and recommended Netanyahu.
Lapid said that in the past, parties would negotiate and debate over whom they would recommend to the president, but he told Peres that it was part of the Yesh Atid platform that the largest party should form the next government.
The Yesh Atid chairman reiterated other aspects of the platform, such as eliminating ministers without portfolio, that everyone should play their part in service to the state and that negotiations in the peace process should resume.
After his speech, in an unprecedented move, Lapid went back to the President’s Residence and dined with Peres for more than an hour.
Sources in Yesh Atid said that, in addition to either the Finance or Foreign portfolio for Lapid, they would ask for the Construction and Housing Ministry, and for the Education Ministry for Rabbi Shai Piron, who is second on the Yesh Atid list.
In addition, Yesh Atid plans to demand the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee, the conduit through which all government spending decisions must pass.
The committee is one of the most important in the Knesset, together with Foreign Affairs and Defense, and is often led by a UTJ MK, most recently Moshe Gafni.
A Yesh Atid source explained that if the Finance Committee had a haredi chairman, he would have the power to block reforms the new government wishes to instate.
A senior UTJ source responded to the rumors, saying he doubted it would happen, because Yesh Atid would receive several ministries.
“Since we don’t take ministerial positions [for ideological reasons], we ask for deputy ministerial posts and chairmanship of important Knesset committees.
Other than the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the most important is the Finance Committee, which is especially important regarding the allocation of budgets,” the source explained.
UTJ plans to ask for the deputy health minister and deputy education minister positions, which it held in the last Knesset.
Shas repeated on Wednesday that ministerial demands were not a condition for it entering the government, and a party source added that there had not yet been serious discussions on portfolios.
Rather, Shas is working on the principles for joint coalition negotiations with UTJ.
Meanwhile, Bayit Yehudi has a long list of ministries it would accept. Foremost in its demands are either Interior or Justice, which are in the second tier of prestigious ministries after the sought-after Defense, Foreign and Finance portfolios.
“Bayit Yehudi should be able to get one of them as the second- largest coalition partner,” a party source said. “We prefer the Justice Ministry – especially for Uri Ariel, [second on the list], since he talked about it throughout the campaign.”
The party also plans to ask for the Construction and Housing Ministry, though the source admitted competition was tight, with Likud Beytenu and Yesh Atid asking for the portfolio, as well as Education and Religious Services, which the latter is also likely to demand.
“Lapid can’t take the Foreign Ministry and Housing and Education.
He can’t have all the senior portfolios. He’ll have to learn to be flexible,” the Bayit Yehudi source added.
Bayit Yehudi is facing internal fighting over who will be appointed minister. Depending on the final coalition agreement, the party is expected to get three or four portfolios, the first two of which will go to party chairman Naftali Bennett and Ariel.
Avi Wortzman, eighth on the Bayit Yehudi list, announced at a meeting of all the party’s MKs that he should be a minister, because of his experience as deputy mayor of Beersheba, but others in the party prefer former and incoming MK Nissan Slomianksy or current MK Uri Orbach.
The 10 other parties in the 19th Knesset will meet with Peres on Thursday.
Labor, Meretz, Hadash, United Arab List-Ta’al and Balad are not expected to recommend anyone, while Kadima plans to recommend Netanyahu.
The Tzipi Livni Party had not yet reached a decision on Wednesday afternoon, and is unlikely to recommend Netanyahu.
On Wednesday evening, Peres said an election campaign in its style and content was a lesson in national democracy, after receiving the official results of the elections for the 19th Knesset from Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Elyakim Rubinstein.
Peres said that now that he had the official results, he could begin consultations with the political parties and hear their recommendations for prime minister.
He hoped that the person whom he tasks with forming a government will agree to take the challenge. Peres explained that the law stipulated that he must enter into consultations with the parties before making his decision.
“I am fully aware of my responsibilities in this regard,” he said. “This is a very heavy responsibility and I intend to carry it out in full accordance with the law to facilitate a government that represents the will of the people. I see this as both a duty and a privilege.”
Rubinstein said he was very pleased with the campaign that had been conducted to urge the public to exercise its right to vote, and although the turnout did not reach the 70 percent it targeted, 68 percent was certainly a sign of progress.
Rubinstein regretted that during the election campaign there had been certain incidents of racism that he termed a red warning sign.
“There is no room for racism in Israel, which became a sovereign state after the Holocaust,” he said.