Netanyahu shuts down talk of post-budget unity government

Many analysts predicted that the prime minister would seek to expand his narrow, 61-seat coalition after the budget passed and his political situation was more stable.

Netanyahu and Herzog (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST,REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Herzog
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out bringing Zionist Union into the coalition after the budget passed Thursday.
“[The opposition] eulogized us too fast. This is a good coalition,” Netanyahu told ministers, according to a report on the Knesset Channel. The prime minister added that “there is no possibility of adding the Zionist Union to the government.”
A spokesman for Netanyahu would not confirm or deny the report.
Many analysts predicted that the prime minister would seek to expand his narrow 61-seat coalition after the budget passed and his political situation was more stable.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon openly pushed for him to do so, saying ahead of the budget debate on Monday that he will “act from next week to expand the government.”
“The time has come for additional partners to enter the coalition and lend a hand in continuing to promote the market. Sitting on the side is fine, criticism is good, writing is nice, but we have to act with joined forces. At this time, the people of Israel want to see its leaders united. We will be the pioneers promoting a unity government,” he stated.
Netanyahu only mentioned Zionist Union, but other opposition parties are unlikely to respond positively to any proposals to join the coalition.
A source close to Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman said the former foreign minister is certain that 2016 will be an election year, and in light of that, he is not interested in joining the government.
The source also pointed out that Liberman has been polling well, although he admitted that a poll taken now, when an election has not been called for the near future, is not necessarily indicative of what would happen when there is an election.
United Torah Judaism would not sit in a coalition with Yesh Atid, as Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has said many times, and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid has also been vocal in his opposition to moving to the coalition.
Three weeks ago, Lapid said he turned down an offer for his party to receive Bayit Yehudi’s three portfolios – Education, Justice and Agriculture – as well as the Foreign Ministry.
The Likud denied that the prime minister or anyone authorized to speak for him offered anything to Yesh Atid. • Orthodox Union: Let Syrian refugees in to the United States WASHINGTON (JTA ) — The Orthodox Union joined an array of Jewish groups in urging the United States to “get to yes” on admitting Syrian refugees.
The OU statement on Thursday came as the US House of Representatives voted 289-137 for a law that would increase the stringency applied existing restrictions on the refugees.
The Orthodox Union represents the second major stream of Judaism to favor bringing in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, as proposed by the Obama administration. Earlier this week, the Union for Reform Judaism was among 81 organizations, including 11 Jewish groups, that signed a letter urging Congress members to allow the administration’s plan to proceed.
In its statement, the OU emphasized its understanding of those who ask for strict vetting procedures, encouraging “a sensible process of reviewing and enhancing security,” but said it should not be a pretext for keeping out the refugees.
“While security concerns must be paramount, our focus as a nation should be on ‘getting to yes,’” the statement said.
Like other Jewish groups, the OU invoked the plight of Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe.
“Just a few decades ago, refugees from the terror and violence in Hitler’s Europe sought refuge in the United States and were turned away due to suspicions about their nationality,” it said. “In fact, the Jewish immigrants that ultimately came to these shores fully adopted American values and have contributed greatly to the fabric of our great nation of immigrants.”
HIAS, the refugee advocacy group that has led Jewish activism on behalf of the Syrian refugees, condemned the House vote.
“Today’s vote is particularly baffling when you consider how well the existing process works,” it said in a statement. “Refugees are already more thoroughly vetted and screened than any other visitor to the United States.”
The Zionist Organization of America, separately, released a long compilation of arguments against allowing in the refugees, although it stopped short of outright opposing the policy.
POLICE FORENSICS investigators examine the scene of yesterday’s terrorist stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. (Ben Hartman)