The first day of the coalition negotiations opened with implied threats, as Yesh Atid's
chairman's associates said that "(Yair) Lapid
isn't afraid of sitting in the opposition."
The Yesh Atid and the Likud-Beiteinu negotiation teams met on Sunday and discovered the main obstacle lies in Lapid's haredi draft outline.
"This is one of the hardest negotiations I've been to in years," said a senior official in the Likud's
team. The haredim and the Religious-Zionist rabbis will not even listen to the word 'quotas,' even (Naftali) Bennett's
party don't accept the term.
"I see the depth of the problem and I can't see how to bridge it between the coalition partners," he said.
Other Likud officials used sharper words, saying that Lapid's conduct was "arrogant."
"He climbed the tallest tree, and now he tells everyone from up there 'Don't agree? Up yours,' they said.
Lapid is not easily reconciled. In private conversations he said he has no qualms with leading the opposition and leaving Benjamin Netanyahu
to handle a narrow coalition.
"We are not chasing government seats at any price," Lapid told his associates. "The opposition isn't a bad option. We have two possibilities ahead of us, and it's up to the prime minister to decide what kind of government he wishes to form."
Channel 2 news reported Sunday that Lapid estimated that should he sit in the opposition, he could replace Netanyahu as prime minister within 18 months.
Meeting with Habayit Hayehudi's team (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
The Likud-Beiteinu team met with Habayit Heyehudi's
teams on Sunday as well, without greater success.
"Bennett's guys are nice, but they understand nothing about Lapid's outline," the Likud-Beiteinu's representatives said afterwards.
"We sent them to talk to Lapid so they'll understand the issue. They keep saying "it'll be fine," but understand nothing. They came unprepared."
"Shas presented a different problem," they added. "They wouldn't listen to any compromise on the haredi draft issue, but they do understand that a settlement must be reached on equal share of the burden."
The Shas triumvirate, Aryeh Deri,
and Ariel Atias, quickly perceived the rift between them and Netanyahu
and Lapid is wider than expected.
"Under no condition will a limit be set to the number of Torah students," they declared. "We will let anyone who wants to study to do so. We'll have no quotas."
"Lapid's position is black-and-white, without a middle-ground." Deri said after the meeting. "We have a feeling they're not looking to reach a compromise, but simply to drive us out, which is a shame."
The Likud's team will meet on Monday with United Torah Judaism's,
representatives, marking the closure of the first round of negotiations.
Kadima does not reject joining a narrow Right government, but will insist on three principals: Equal share of the burden, changing the system of government and initiating a peace process.
The Likud-Beiteinu team is comprised of David Shomron, Moshe Leon and Yoav Mani. Businessman Uri Shani is leading Yesh Atid's team. Habayit Hayehudi's team is led by Eyal Gabai, and Hatnua's team is headed by Attorney Eitan Haberman.
Yuval Karni, Tzvika Brot, Akiva Novick and Moran Azulay contributed to this report
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