Bennett: Spring is here - coalition talks are in bloom

Lapid asks for patience, says negotiations are far from over; Bennett may be candidate for Finance Minister; Yacimovich insists she will remain in opposition.

Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett expressed optimism about the formation of the next coalition in a faction meeting on Monday, while Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid warned of possible surprises.
Meanwhile, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich insisted that she will remain in the opposition, despite efforts by haredi parties to convince her otherwise.
Bennett opened the Bayit Yehudi faction meeting by describing a hiking trip he took recently and the greenery he saw.
“The political field is also moving from winter to spring. That is the source of a good atmosphere and a lot of goodwill to form a government,” he stated.
The Bayit Yehudi leader’s optimism may stem from Likud Beytenu’s support for his party’s demand that Bennett be the next finance minister.
Channel 10 news reported that Likud Beytenu would have no problem with Bennett taking that post, as the two parties have similar stances on economic issues.
Bennett added that his party is “rolling up its sleeves” to help the prime minister form the widest coalition possible.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and others in Likud Beytenu criticized Bennett – either by name or with thinly veiled hints – for maintaining his pact with Lapid, even though the latter refuses to sit in the government with haredi parties, which would prevent the formation of a broad coalition.
Lapid and Netanyahu met on Friday evening in a secret meeting that was not revealed to the press at the time, but his comments on Monday made it clear they were not close to signing an agreement yet.
The Yesh Atid leader pointed out at the start of a faction meeting that there is a lot of work left and many issues that need to be resolved before the government is formed.
“It’s far from over,” he said. “Israeli politics is about surprises. I hope that, together with the prime minister, we will successfully form a government that is good and stable, and will deal with what is good for the country and not for politicians.”
Lapid called for patience and said the coalition will probably not be formed in the next few days.
He also expressed hope that he will take part in improving the lives of all Israelis, including the ultra-Orthodox.
“Haredim will see that we are not against them. It is part of our job to be at their service,” he stated.
Netanyahu will have to sign agreements with both Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi in order to form a coalition of over 61 seats, because the parties are aligned and will not be in a government with Shas and United Torah Judaism.
The prime minister’s only alternative is to bring Labor into the coalition, which would also allow the haredi parties to join, but the possibility is looking as unlikely as ever.
At the start of a Labor faction meeting, Yacimovich addressed rumors appearing mostly in the haredi press claiming that she is forming a committee for coalition talks and considering joining Netanyahu’s government.
“In recent days, I’ve received hundreds of requests to join the government and ‘save’ Prime Minister Netanyahu,” she said.
“Despite all the calls and the attempts to open negotiating channels, nothing is different that will make me change the deep and ideological decision not to join the government.”
The Labor leader said her party is preparing to be an effective opposition, mentioning a seminar held for new MKs and assistants to learn about the budget and how to foil “evil proposals.”
Yacimovich added that Netanyahu plans to make drastic cuts that will hurt the lower and middle classes, and that her party will not stop fighting it.
“We’ll have an opposition of at least 50 MKs, and we won’t give in at all,” Labor faction leader MK Isaac Herzog said.
“The government will ask for an extension, and we’ll fight it.”
Later on Monday, Netanyahu’s office issued a request to postpone by a week the Knesset recess set to begin next Thursday, so that the new coalition, which must be formed by March 16, can quickly pass a bill extending the time to pass a budget from 45 to 90 days.