President Shimon Peres is expected Wednesday to open consultations with the parties elected to the new Knesset, after which he will announce who he will given the task of forming the next government. Representatives of Likud- Yisrael Beiteinu and Yesh Atid are expected to be the first to meet with Peres this evening, as they are the two largest factions in the incoming Knesset.

Peres will likely announce his decision on Friday, and only after that can the candidate for prime minister officially open coalition negotiations for forming the new government.

The President’s Residence said Peres was interested in keeping the consultations as short and to the point as possible and they should last only two days. Peres has no intention of using the entire seven days allotted him by law to make the decision, said President’s Residence officials.

Meanwhile, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett are coordinating their positions with the aim of advancing legislation that will equalize the military service burden.

Spokesmen for both did not deny that the two had met to prepare for the negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though both issued an identical statement saying, “We are not discussing issues related to the coalition negotiations with the media.”

The link between Lapid and Bennett sends a clear signal to Netanyahu that both are serious about confronting the Haredi conscription issue. It also signals that Lapid wants to see Bennett in the cabinet despite the personal disputes between Bennett and Netanyahu, and is liable to force Netanyahu to accept Habayit Hayehudi into the coalition.

Yesh Atid wants Finance Committee

Also, Yesh Atid is demanding the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee. The Finance Committee’s current chief is MK Moshe Gafni from United Torah Judaism. His predecessor was Yaakov Litzman, also from UTJ.

The committee is the most important in the Knesset because it controls the flow of government funds, say Yesh Atid sources involved in the coalition talks. The committee controls the state budget and taxes, and its chairman is considered just as important as a minister. Yesh Atid wants a number of posts in socioeconomic ministries, including housing and construction, but there is no point in receiving ministerial posts if the committee head remains an ultra-Orthodox MK who can block the government’s initiatives, the sources say.

The transfer of the Finance Committee from the Haredim to Lapid is more than a practical matter; it’s also a symbol of change. For years, UTJ and its predecessors headed the panel, all but viewing it as a fief. They often preferred it to a ministerial post and advanced their party’s interests while transferring large sums to Haredi yeshivas and other institutions.

Peres’ consultations will start an hour after the official ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem Wednesday, at which the chairman of the Central Election Committee, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, will present Peres with the official final results of the January 22 balloting. Once the president names the party leader to form the next government, the Basic Law on the Government gives him 28 days to put it together. The law gives the president the right to extend this period for up to another 14 days.

The order in which the parties will be invited to meet with Peres is based on the number of Knesset seats the party won, from largest to smallest.