Benjamin Netanyahu is "leaning towards giving Avigdor Lieberman the Foreign Affairs portfolio, the finance portfolio to either (Yair) Lapid or (Naftali) Bennett, while (Moshe) Ya'alon is the leading candidate for the role of defense minister," an associate of the prime minister said Monday.
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Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's policy conference via satellite on Monday that he will have a strong and stable government in the coming days.
On Monday it was reported that Bennett, the chairman of the Habayit Hayehudi party, is demanding the finance portfolio, while Yesh Atid leader Lapid reiterated his demand to be appointed foreign minister. The aide said Netanyahu rejected Lapid's request, as the Foreign Affairs portfolio was already promised to MK Lieberman, number two on Likud-Beiteinu's Knesset roster.
While the coalition negotiations seem to be gaining steam, Lapid told members of his party Monday that they were "far from over."
The Yesh Atid leader said, "There are quite a few unresolved issues. We also know that Israeli politics are 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."
It was reported Monday that Netanyahu and Lapid held a secret meeting over the weekend to "build trust between them," according to a source who is close to both politicians.
Sources in both parties hedged that the prime minister wanted to test Lapid's resolve regarding his seemingly adamant objection to include the haredi parties in the government. A senior Likud source said that Yesh Atid's chairman's determination was "surprisingly solid."
According to the sources, Lapid said that the inclusion of the ultra-Orthodox factions in the next government would go against the wish of the voters, as expressed in the election results.
Yuval Karni and Moran Azulay are Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondents