Photo: Motti Kimchi
Netanyahu and Kahlon in 2013
Photo: Motti Kimchi

Bayit Yehudi begins coalition talks with eye on senior portfolios

Kahlon boycotts negotiations after Netanyahu promises Finance Committee to religious party; Kulanu leader responds furiously, says impossible to tackle housing crisis and cost of living without correct tools.

Bayit Yehudi became the first party to hold official coalition negotiations with the Likud on Thursday, anticipating its members will fill at least one of the most senior positions in the government. 



The Bayit Yehudi negotiators arrived for talks at the Knesset after Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu cancelled its meeting to protest Benjamin Netanyahu's apparent decision to give control of the Knesset Finance Committee to United Torah Judaism.


Netanyahu was tasked Wednesday by President Reuven Rivlin to form the next government, after his party won 30 seats in the March 17 elections and a majority of MKs backed him as the next prime minister.


Despite only winning a disappointing eight seats in the elections, Bayit Yehudi expects Netanyahu to name party chairman Naftali Bennett as foreign or defense minister. In the Likud, however, efforts are being made to palm the far-right party off with the education portfolio.


Bennett's party, which recommended Netanyahu as the leader to form the next government, sees itself as the senior partner of the Likud, and claims it should be rewarded for helping the Likud secure its election victory.


"We are acting in accordance with the promises made by the prime minister during the election campaign," said Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin.


"We promised the first phone call (after the elections) would be to Miriam Peretz (who lost two of her sons in IDF combat), and the next would be to Bennett. We promised during the election campaign that Kahlon would be finance minister and this is what happened. We will negotiate in good faith."


Meanwhile, Kulanu Chairman Moshe Kahlon on Thursday instructed his party's negotiating team to cancel its morning meeting with its Likud opposite, as the first official day of coalition talks got off to a rocky start.


Kulanu cited the Likud's promise to give leadership of the Knesset Finance Committee to the religious United Torah Judaism party as the reason for the cancelation.


Kahlon, a former Likud minister under Netanyahu before quitting the party and forming his own, has demanded the key finance government posts as a condition for bringing his 10-seat party into the government.


Moshe Kahlon (Photo: Reuters)
Moshe Kahlon (Photo: Reuters)


The Likud on Wednesday confirmed that Kahlon would be offered the post of finance minister, but with Netanyahu being forced to rely on other parties to make up the necessary 61-seat majority to govern, he is compelled to cede to other demands too.


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The Kulanu party said: "Following the political moves by the Likud to divide the posts at the expense of the tools needed to lower house prices and deal with the cost of living, even before the coalition negotiating teams met, party chairman Moshe Kahlon told the party's negotiating team to cancel the meeting with the Likud team."


Kahlon had responded furiously Wednesday night to reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intended to give the Finance Committee to United Torah Judaism.


"I heard that instead of dealing with the housing shortage and lowering the cost of living, someone thinks it is more urgent to divide the tools required to do this in a political manner and with a lack of social logic," Kahlon wrote on his Facebook page.


"Nobody has negotiated with us yet, so no one could agree to anything on our behalf. Listen to what is said by me myself or by someone authorized to do so. All the rest is spin by interested parties," he said.


The party has made it clear that it will not give up on any of its coalition demands.



The Likud said in response: "The steps taken by Moshe Kahlon this morning are puzzling and unnecessary. The public expects the government to be quickly established to benefit all the citizens of Israel - and the place to clarify issues and controversies is at the coalition negotiating table."


פרסום ראשון: 03.26.15, 09:55
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