Bennett eyes Finance post, Lapid goes for FM

Yesh Atid leader rejects Likud Beytenu's offer of the Finance portfolio and will continue to push for Foreign Ministry.

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)
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett is the leading contender for the Finance Ministry, as Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid did not accept Likud Beytenu’s offer of the portfolio Tuesday.
A senior Likud Beytenu source said Lapid had been offered the Finance Ministry and the party would keep the Foreign Ministry, Lapid’s preferred portfolio.
Lapid has yet to give Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu an answer, but sources in his party say he will continue to push for the Foreign Ministry, with the Interior Ministry as his second choice.
No progress was made on coalition negotiations on Tuesday, mainly due to the impasse over the Foreign Ministry and Yesh Atid’s demand that there be only 18 ministers.
Bayit Yehudi told Likud Beytenu’s negotiating team that despite the pact between the two parties, they have no problem with a larger number of portfolios.
Netanyahu is expected to face difficulties selecting ministers within his party if the number of appointees drops to 18, as he seeks a majority for Likud Beytenu within the government.
In such a situation, six or seven Likud MKs and three Yisrael Beytenu MKs would get portfolios, while nine 19th Knesset MKs from the former party and four from the latter are currently ministers.
As part of the agreement between Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi, the two parties are not competing over the same ministries.
Bennett’s party has requested that he receive the Finance Ministry and that the Housing and Construction; Transportation; and Religious Services portfolios go to Bayit Yehudi, a party source said.
Yesh Atid has asked for the Interior; Education; and Communications portfolios, in addition to the Foreign Ministry for Lapid.
The battle for the Education Ministry is expected to be rough, since current minister Gideon Sa’ar, who came in first place in the Likud primary, hopes to remain in his seat.
“I have been asked if I will continue as education minister in the next government,” he said at a school principals’ conference at the Dead Sea Tuesday. “In the current political reality, I simply do not know, but I want you to know that I would like to continue.”
Sa’ar added that in his eyes, education minister is not just a job but national mission and responsibility.
Meanwhile, following the realization that they will not sit in the next coalition, haredi parties have already begun acting as a fighting opposition.
MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) proposed a bill to dissolve the Knesset and call a new election on Tuesday, explaining that “the State of Israel will be run by inexperienced people who are motivated by hatred of the other.”
“The Iranian threat still stands, with the regime in Tehran gathering new technologies to develop nuclear weapons. In addition, our Palestinian neighbors are gaining international support to declare another Arab state next to Israel,” the bill’s explanatory portion lists as reasons a more experienced government is necessary.
Maklev explained that if another election is held, Netanyahu would be able to form a government quickly, which would unite the nation and include parties from all parts of the political spectrum.