Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to offer Moshe Ya'alon the role of foreign minister Thursday as negotiations to bring Yisrael Beytenu into the coalition and officially make Avigdor Liberman defense minister in place of Ya'alon continued, with both sides confident that the deal would be done soon.Liberman confirmed Wednesday that he had accepted Netanyahu's offer to bring the party's six seats into the coalition, expanding it from 61 to 67 seats, in exchange for the defense portfolio and support for certain legislation backed by the party.Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, leading the negotiations for Likud, said at the opening of Thursday's meeting that talks were being renewed after the two sides had met on Wednesday night. The Likud minister said that the talks were positive, calling Yisrael Beytenu's entry into the coalition "a natural move that will strengthen Israel."Both Levin and Liberman agreed that every effort would be made to finish the talks as quickly as possible, hopefully on Thursday.
(Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) and MK Avigdor Liberman meet to discuss Yisrael Beytenu joining the coalition. Credit: Courtesy) With Liberman slated to become defense minster, Netanyahu was expected to call current Defense Minister Ya'alon to offer him the vacant post of foreign minister, which the prime minister has not filled since the forming of his coalition 14 months ago.In his first comments since his ouster from the Defense Ministry, Ya'alon said on Thursday that there has been "a loss of moral direction on basic ethical questions."At a speech given at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Ya'alon made a thinly-veiled jab at Netanyahu.Coalition partner Bayit Yehudi said that they would not ask for the Foreign Ministry and are content to remain with the portfolios they already have.Netanyahu's decision to bring Liberman into the coalition ended talks he had been having in recent weeks with Isaac Herzog to bring his Zionist Union party into a unity government.Levin told Army Radio on Thursday morning that there had been two negotiation tracks the whole time. Coalition partner Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) welcomed the pending addition of Yisrael Beytenu to the coalition on Thursday, calling on critics to judge Liberman by his actions."Expanding the government was essential," Kahlon said, adding that the government had been working to widen the narrow 61 seat coalition since its inception. He said that he was sorry efforts to bring the Zionist Union into the coalition had not worked out, but that from his conversations with Liberman and Netanyahu he was certain that Yisrael Beytenu joining the coalition was set to be finalized.Addressing criticism of Liberman's pending appointment to serve as defense minister, Kahlon said, "I reject disqualifying people personally and believe thay have to be judged on their actions."Kahlon added, however, that the government had been formed on the basis of adherence to the rule of law, and he would insist that this principle is maintained with the addition of Liberman to the coalition.Also on Thursday, MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) criticized Netanyahu for tapping Liberman to serve in the coalition over her co-party leader, Herzog. "History will not forgive Netanyahu for what he has done to Israel," Livni wrote on Facebook."When Netanyahu needed to chose between moderate and extreme, democracy and nationalism, between peace and isolation and security deterioration- he choose what was comfortable for him politically, the extreme Right," Livni stated.