As the deadline for forming a new government nears, a Likud source said around noon Wednesday that if the coming hours do not produce a breakthrough in the coalition negotiations with Yesh Atid and party leader Yair Lapid does not back down his "excessive demands," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will begin talks with the haredi factions.
Netanyahu has four days to form a government before the deadline expires.
Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett met with Netanyahu Tuesday night in an attempt to settle the differences between Likud and Yesh Atid. During the meeting Bennett spoke to Lapid several times over the phone.
Time running out. Lapid (L), Netanyahu and Bennett (Photo: Reuters)
Netanyahu hoped to present his new cabinet on Wednesday, but the sides failed to finalize an agreement that would see Yesh Atid join a Likud-led government, mainly due to Lapid's demand that his party get the education portfolio.
Meanwhile, Shas party sources said its representatives are scheduled to meet with Likud negotiators on Wednesday at the Kfar Maccabiah Convention Center in Ramat Gan.
Yesh Atid officials said that in addition to the education portfolio, the party is also demanding the interior portfolio, while Likud has agreed to give the party just one of the ministries.
"The current crisis in the coalition talks is not just about the distribution of portfolios. It is a battle for the character of Israeli society," one of the officials said.
"Yesh Atid is insisting on the education portfolio because the path towards changing the face of the country passes mainly through this portfolio," he added.
"Yesh Atid asked for the voter's trust so it could fight not just (for a smaller cabinet) and equal share of the national burden, but also for education and the future of Israeli society. Lapid will not stray from his principles and promises regarding this issue, even if it means he'll have to sit in the opposition."
Responding to Likud's ultimatum, Bennett wrote on his Facebook page: "My friends from Likud. Forget about it. It won't work like this. There are gaps. We have to talk and compromise. All of us. Until a government is established. There is a country we need to worry about."
Likud, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi have already reached an agreement on raising the electoral threshold from 2% to 4%. During talks held earlier in the week the sides also agreed on a bill for equal share of the national burden, as well as on the size of the next government.
According to the agreement, the next cabinet will be smaller and include 20 ministers (not including Netanyahu) and eight deputy ministers.
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