By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Likud MK Moshe Ya'alon revealed in closed conversations on Monday that he had reached "understandings" with Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu regarding his portfolio if a national-unity government is formed.
Ya'alon's fate has been up in the air since coalition negotiations were renewed with Labor. Before that, Netanyahu told him that he would be defense minister. But the job will now go to Barak if he succeeds in persuading his party to enter the government.
The former IDF chief of General Staff gave two radio interviews on Monday in which he called for the formation of a national unity government, saying he was willing to pay a personal price to allow Labor to enter the coalition.
"We need to put personal interests aside in favor of what is best for the country, which is a wide government," Ya'alon told Israel Radio.
When asked if he would be a minister, he replied affirmatively and said that he would be "a partner in the decision-making" and "in a position of influence" no matter what would happen with Labor.
Netanyahu's office released a statement after the interview praising Ya'alon.
"Netanyahu appreciates the chivalry and responsibility displayed by Ya'alon by conceding the Defense portfolio and calling for the formation of a national-unity government," the statement said. "He proved that he puts the good of the country over his own personal good."
But Likud sources revealed that Ya'alon's radio interviews and Netanyahu's statement afterward were all part of understandings reached with Ya'alon regarding his job in the next government.
There have been reports that Ya'alon would receive the Education portfolio in return for conceding the Defense Ministry but sources close to Ya'alon and Netanyahu would not confirm them.
"Ya'alon is not dealing with the distribution of portfolios," his spokesman said.
In the interviews, Ya'alon said that if Barak became Netanyahu's defense minister, he would have to carry out the prime minister's policies and the security cabinet's decisions, which he said would correct the mistakes Barak made in the current government.
He reiterated his opposition to the deal being negotiated with Hamas regarding the fate of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.
"The interests of an entire country cannot be held captive, even to redeem a captive," he said.
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