'PM livid at Lapid-Bennett anti-haredi conspiracy'

Netanyahu tells ministers Lapid and Bennett are advancing themselves at the country's expense, according to Likud sources.

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)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is furious at what he believes is a conspiracy by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett to try to prevent Shas and United Torah Judaism from joining the coalition, Likud sources said on Sunday.
Sources who attended Netanyahu’s meeting with Likud ministers said he spoke of Lapid and Bennett with contempt, complaining that “their strategy is not to reach solutions on key issues, only to push out the haredi parties.”
Ministers quoted Netanyahu as saying that Lapid and Bennett cared only about advancing themselves politically rather than the good of the country.
Mocking Lapid’s plan for equalizing the burden of IDF service, Netanyahu said that “it will neither bring equality nor ease anyone’s burden.”
Sources close to the prime minister went further, alleging that Lapid and Bennett were aiming to break the 36-yearold bond between Likud and the haredi parties, so that following the next election, they will not recommend that Netanyahu form the government.
The Likud ministers said Netanyahu clearly intends to keep the foreign portfolio for his No. 2 in Likud Beytenu, Avigdor Liberman, even though he will not be able to become foreign minister until he is cleared of the charges against him in his trial, which began Sunday and will continue in April.
A Likud source said that if Netanyahu could trust Lapid, perhaps he would try to break out of his commitment with Liberman, but he is far from that point now.
Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu intended to build a coalition with the 57 MKs of Likud Beytenu, Shas, UTJ, The Tzipi Livni Party and Kadima, and then give Bennett a choice between joining the coalition without Lapid or initiating an election in which the Left could come to power.
Livni denied a Channel 10 report that she had accepted the justice portfolio.
In other attempts to break the political pact between Lapid and Bennett, Shas cochairmen Arye Deri and Eli Yishai met respectively with the leader of Bayit Yehudi and the leaders of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria.
One settler leader told Yishai, “Bennett is making a mistake if he is seeking a momentary deal with Lapid rather than a stable bond with Shas.”
Yishai warned the settler leaders that “if there will be a diplomatic process, Lapid will throw Bennett out of the government.
We [in Shas], however, are not a spare tire for the Left.”
Sources close to Bennett denied that his party sought a coalition without haredim.
They said that if Netanyahu wanted to find solutions on equalizing the burden of service and changing the electoral system, deals with Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid could be reached quickly.
Bayit Yehudi MKs blasted Netanyahu for seeking to build a coalition with Labor and The Tzipi Livni Party and for suggesting that Bayit Yehudi was violating the will of its voters by making a deal with Lapid.
“The Likud is insulting the intelligence of the public when it accuses us of defrauding our voters,” said MK Ayelet Shaked.
“The Likud’s first partner is Livni, who will conduct negotiations [with the Palestinians], the same Livni who ran on a campaign of creating a Palestinian state, who would divide Jerusalem, and who said Netanyahu is leading Israel to a disaster. Is that not defrauding voters?”
Shaked said that reports the prime minister was offering the finance portfolio to Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich also indicated he was defrauding voters, after years of the Labor leader and Netanyahu explaining the differences in their economic policies.
“Suddenly, Netanyahu will agree to an economic plan that costs NIS 138 billion and become a social democrat?” she asked.
“Come on. We were silent amid all the Likud attacks on us during the election. Friends in Likud, the election is over. Stop attacking Bayit Yehudi and simply form a government.”
MK Uri Orbach wrote on Facebook that “suddenly the Likud, which portrayed us during the campaign as closed-minded Jews, is now presenting us as gentiles who are willing to sell out to the secular Lapid. The Likud, which just recently slung mud on our rabbis, is now chasing after them and trying to persuade those same rabbis to pressure us.”
MK Yoni Chetboun added that he expected the Likud to focus on drafting the guidelines for Netanyahu’s government rather than leak political spin to cause friction.
“Parties are leaking political spin to reporters in order to anger and divide,” Chetboun said.
“The party that has been in power for four years should lead the way to clear coalition guidelines. It’s called ideology. Take a time-out and think about the good of the country.”
The Likud responded that Netanyahu was seeking to build a coalition with his party’s natural partners on the Right and then widen it to parties on the Center-Left.
“We aren’t tricking anyone,” a Likud official said. “Bennett is mistakenly trying to stop a right-wing government from being formed. He made a mistake by falling in love with Lapid, who is only using him.”