Following rumors of an imminent coalition agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
on Sunday, Habayit Hayehudi
Chairman Naftali Bennett
expressed his hopes on Monday that the latest round of talks would indicate a change for the better in the parties' relations.
Chairman Yair Lapid,
however, was more pessimistic, telling his faction that "The coalition negotiations are far from over."
During Habayit Hayehudi's faction meeting, Bennett expressed hope that the political system would change for the better, adding: "We are rolling up our sleeves to help the prime minister form a broad government."
Bennet on Monday (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Bennett met with Netanyahu and his number two in Likud-Beiteinu,
Knesset member Avigdor Lieberman on
A senior Likud official commented that the meeting was "positive" and showed significant progress.
"Netanyahu aims to finalize the coalition talks with Bennett and Yesh Atid by the end of the week," the source said.
Lapid in Yesh Atid faction meeting (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Meanwhile, Yair Lapid expressed some wariness in his own faction's meeting: "The coalition negotiations are far from over. There are quite a few unresolved issues.
"We also know that Israeli
politics is full of surprises, but I hope that together with the prime minister we'll succeed in forming a coalition beneficial to the State, not to politicians.
"Over the next four-five years we'll work to improve the lives of Israeli citizens, including the haredim,
who will discover that Yesh Atid isn't against them, but quite the opposite. We intend to be those they can turn to for their special needs."
Yesh Atid will likely gain Habayit Hayehudi's support if the former's bids for the Education
portfolio – probably giving it to MK Shay Piron,
acceptable to both parties.
Lapid is expected to demand the Foreign Affairs portfolio,
previously promised to Lieberman, but some estimate that the demand is mainly a starting point in the portfolio negotiations.
In addition, Yesh Atid is expected to bid for the Interior and Welfare
portfolios, and Habayit Hayehudi is likely to support their requests for the Knesset Finance Committee and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairmanships.
Conversely, Bennett is expected to demand – with Lapid's support – the Religious Services,
Industry, Trade and Labor
and Housing and Construction
portfolios, and possibly the Culture and Sport portfolio, as a non-sectorial pick.
Though Lapid has previously claimed he intended to shut down the Religious Services Ministry, or at least have the portfolio, he is predicted to support the Habayit Hayehudi's bid.
Yachimovich: "Preparing aggressive opposition" (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
A senior Habayit Hayehudi official said that Bennett might demand one of the major ministries, but only if it does not clash with Lapid's demands. The statement was confirmed by sources close to the negotiations, but denied by Habayit Hayehudi on Sunday.
Chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich
, who withstood heavy pressures to join the government, said at her faction meeting on Monday: "Over the last days we've received dozens if not hundreds of calls begging us to join the government and save Netanyahu.
"I want to update that despite the phone-calls deluge and talks with the PM, there's no change that could make us reopen for debate our clear and determined decision.
"It's final. We won't sit in the government and we're preparing vigorously for an effective, aggressive opposition."
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