has shown hints of discord in recent days over the decision of whether to allow the religious Habayit Hayehudi
party, headed by Naftali Bennett,
into the governing coalition next term.
Some members of the Likud warn that Bennett, who has been elected to the Knesset for the first time last week but has emerged as charismatic politician during the campaign, could try to impair the ruling party from within, insisting that he must remain in the opposition. Others, meanwhile, argue against leaving him out of the government.
"Turning our backs on Bennett would be a mistake, especially when the reason (for the rift) appears to be the friction between him and Sara Netanyahu,"
a conservative Likud member said Saturday, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
"This isn't a good enough reason to hang him out to dry," the official added, noting that the two parties share ideological similarities. "We can form a coalition with Bennett, (Yair) Lapid
and the ultra-Orthodox parties."
Netanyahu vs. Bennett (Photos: EPA, Getty Images)
Another Likud member said that inviting Habayit Hayehudi into the government would please constituents, considering the two parties share the same voter base.
"If we leave them out now, they will hold a grudge," he said. "They should be allowed in even if they are likely to impede diplomatic progress."
Some members of the right-wing ruling party, however, cast doubt on Bennett's true political agenda.
"Bennett's goals extend beyond leading the religious sector into taking over the entire Right," the senior official said. "During the campaign, he gave Netanyahu a bear hug while continuing to attack him. He now wants to join the coalition not in order to take care of the Religious Zionist movement but to undercut Netanyahu from within the government."
The official stressed that Likud would fare better by forming a centrist coalition that includes Lapid's Yesh Atid, Kadima, the ultra-Orthodox parties and perhaps even Tzipi Livni's Hatnua party, while excluding radical politicians who could hinder the Israeli-Palestinian talks.
This kind of government would be open to Bennett – if he agreed to its basic principles.
"In this case he would probably prefer to stay in the opposition, and that would be a problem for him because he wants to position himself as the leader of the Right, and needs government experience," the official said.
Nevertheless, sources close to Netanyahu claim that due to the fact that the haredi parties are unlikely to join a coalition that stands for Yesh Atid's plan to draft
the ultra-Orthodox into the army, the prime minister will move forward with negotiating Habayit Hayehudi's integration into the government in the coming days.