Solving the coalitional quagmire: Ten days remain before the government formation deadline, and the main dispute between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett
and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid,
surrounds the number of ministers to be appointed from each respective party.
Bennett and Lapid are demanding to receive one of the three major portfolios: Lapid wants the Foreign Affairs Portfolio and Bennett is eyeing the Finance Portfolio.
The two claim that if Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman
receives the position as foreign minister while his party holds 11 mandates – making it the fifth largest party in the Knesset, following the Likud, Yesh Atid, Labor and Habayit Hayehudi – the two should receive no less than Lieberman.
Additional disagreement lies in the number of ministers the parties will have in the government. Netanyahu is standing steadfast in his demand for a cabinet comprised of at least 24 ministers, while Lapid is willing to compromise on 20 ministers at most.
Who was promised what? (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
The three are also locking horns over the portfolios. Netanyahu is unwilling to give up the Foreign Affairs Portfolio to Lapid; and Lapid is unwilling to serve as finance minister since he believes that the Finance Portfolio is liable to constitute a "political trap" in times of budget cuts.
Likud-Beiteinu negotiators insisted Tuesday night that Lapid has no chance of receiving the Foreign Affairs Portfolio as Netanyahu promised
it to Lieberman. "The Finance portfolio was offered to Yesh Atid, headed by Yair Lapid. It was simultaneously clarified to the Yesh Atid party that the Foreign Affairs portfolio will remain in the hands of the Likud-Beiteinu," said the sources.
Furthermore, sources associated with Lapid and Bennett said that they are also in accord regarding the portfolio allocation and that the decision regarding which one of them will serve as Finance Minister will be made mutually.
Bennett's people denied reports saying that he sealed the deal with Netanyahu regarding the Finance Ministry position. "Bennett did not speak to the prime minister yesterday at all, the report is untrue. The portfolios have not yet been decided upon," said an official at the office of the Habayit Hayehudi
As the portfolio distribution nears, there is clear tension within the Likud-Beiteinu. A source involved in the coalitional negotiations admitted that "Most of the Likud ministers will be disappointed. The rules of the game have changed."
Sources associated to Netanyahu said that these are true trials and tribulations for the prime minister. The number of portfolios is small and their quality is slim. Netanyahu is expected to appoint six to seven more ministers on behalf of the Likud,
but at least 12 candidates are contending for these portfolios.
Seven ministers are demanding to serve as ministers in the next government, some of whom expect an upgrade: Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom, Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon (most likely to be Defense Minister) Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz
and Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat.
In addition, Netanyahu promised MKs in his party that they will serve as ministers in his next government (MK Tzachi Hanegbi, Haim Katz, Yariv Levin and MK Zeev Elkin) and number six in the Likud, MK Danny Danon announced that he too is contending for a ministerial position in light of his place on the party list and his political power.
"Everyone went underground because they are afraid to say the wrong thing and thereby ruin their chance to become a minister," said a senior Likud source. "Some of the senior ministers understand that their upgrade will remain on paper and others are on defensive alert. The tension is insane."
A Likud ministerial candidate said "what is going on in the Likud is truly the Theater of the Absurd." According to him, "the most senior portfolio following Defense will be the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, for which Sa'ar, Erdan and Steinitz are contending. Other ministers understood that the only thing left is to fight for the Tourism, Health, Energy or Water portfolios."
Many in the Likud have criticized Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu,
who they claim, abandoned his factional friends and displayed generosity towards his coalitional partners. "Bibi sold everything. Suddenly the Health portfolio, that no one wanted to hear about, became an attractive portfolio."
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