Likud MKs blast Netanyahu's handling of coalition talks - 'We are left with crumbs'

Netanyahu is giving himself all the power he needs, but relegating the rest of the Likud to mediocre positions, Likud MKs said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK David Bitan. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK David Bitan.

Senior Likud MKs on Tuesday expressed their disappointment over the reduced roles they are expected to receive in the upcoming government and Knesset.

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, has been holding intensive negotiations with the parties that are expected to make up his new government since shortly after the November 1 election.

“There is a problem with the upcoming coalition agreement, and I hope it will change,” Likud MK David Bitan told 103FM.

Likud MKs have said they feel like they are left with just the crumbs after the top portfolios – Finance, Public Security, Interior, Transportation and more – have been given to Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and the Religious Zionist Party.

"There is a problem with the upcoming coalition agreement, and I hope it will change."

 MK David Bitan

“There is not a lot left for the Likud,” Bitan said, referring to Netanyahu’s intention to reserve the Defense and the Foreign ministries for Likud members but to give up many other influential positions.

“Israel is not just foreign and defense affairs,” he said. “It is also daily life.”

Bitan said Netanyahu was giving himself the power he needs as prime minister as well as the Defense and the Foreign ministries while relegating the rest of the Likud MKs to mediocre positions. He also attacked the “unnecessary” leaks coming out of Netanyahu’s office against Likud MKs Israel Katz, David Amsalem and others.

Bitan said he would not do anything to prevent the formation of the new government, but after it is formed, he “has his ways” to get back at Netanyahu.

It was the second threat Bitan has made in the past week. On Saturday, he told Channel 12’s Meet the Press: “Just as Netanyahu went against me, I can go against him.”

Bitan on Saturday also expressed his opposition to Netanyahu’s attempt to appoint former ambassador to the US Ron Dermer as foreign minister, one of the most important ministries that will be left for the Likud.

Ynet on Tuesday quoted another senior Likud figure as saying, “Netanyahu paid with all of the senior portfolios; we are left with crumbs.”

Coalition talks advance

Reports on Monday evening indicated advancement in the coalition talks, as Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich reportedly agreed to back down for his demand to receive the Defense Ministry if his party receives the Finance Ministry and another ministerial position within the Defense Ministry that would be responsible for issues pertaining to Judea and Samaria. The Religious Zionist Party is also expected to be offered the Education Ministry.

Shas chairman Arye Deri has reportedly been offered the position of deputy prime minister and the Interior and the Transportation ministries instead of receiving the Finance Ministry.

Shas was also offered the Religious Services and the Health ministries and possibly the Development of the Negev and the Galilee portfolio, Channel 12 reported.

Otzma Yehudit is expected to receive the Public Security Ministry and is also demanding the Development of the Negev and the Galilee portfolio.

“It is not by chance that we are insisting on this ministry,” Otzma Yehudit leader Ben-Gvir said Tuesday in the Knesset plenum. “We need to invest there [in the Negev and Galilee], and without being able to do so, we will simply not enter the government.”

UTJ is expected to receive the Construction and Housing and the Social Equality and Pensioners ministries.

The remaining portfolios include: Justice; Energy; Environmental Protection; Regional Cooperation; Aliyah and Integration; Culture and Sports; Intelligence; Communications; Economy; Tourism; Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services; Science and Technology; and Diaspora Affairs.

Coalition negotiations made little headway on Tuesday. UTJ No. 2 MK Moshe Gafni expressed anger over “those who are delaying the formation of the government for ministerial portfolios and receiving more.”

He met with Likud No. 2 MK Yariv Levin and Netanyahu on Tuesday evening to clarify the issue.

Gafni said he would convene the interim Knesset Finance Committee to receive a report from Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron on the state of the economy.

Smotrich met with Religious Zionist Party spiritual leader Rabbi Haim Druckman on Tuesday evening to update him about the negotiations.

The Likud on Tuesday evening published its list of demands in the negotiations. It included a large number of provisions, but it is unlikely to follow through on many of them.

The provisions were split into categories. Under “IDF soldiers,” the Likud said it demanded a 20% raise in the salaries of regular soldiers, raising the salary to minimum wage for combat soldiers in the final half year of their service and giving soldiers 100% funding for their university degrees. It was unclear whether the university funding referred to just combat soldiers or to all soldiers.

Under “Fighting the High Cost of Living,” the Likud demanded an “emergency plan to slow the rise in the cost of living, within which the prices of electricity, water, gas and city taxes will be temporarily frozen; free education for children aged 0-3; and others.”

Under “Law and Governance,” the Likud used vague language and did not mention the controversial Override Clause, promising only to “strengthen the Knesset’s status and return the propped balance between the branches [of government], including by passing a Basic Law: Legislation.”

Under “Transportation,” the Likud demanded to launch a multiyear plan for a bullet train, as well as to “actualize the Metro plan,” which includes legislation that it refused to support in the waning days of the previous Knesset.