Netanyahu tries to head off revolt within Likud over cabinet posts
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday tried to head off a revolt within his party, as his fellow Likud members complained that he is breaking promises by giving away senior cabinet posts to coalition partners.
Netanyahu met with MKs Gila Gamliel, Danny Danon and Yariv Levin, who held a protest meeting at the home of MK Silvan Shalom.
"The coalition talks have not ended," he told them. "They are at their apex, in terms of both principles and portfolios."
Netanyahu's aides said he hopes to present his new cabinet next Wednesday or Thursday, and is fearing his faction may rebel. Since the narrow right-wing government will lean on a coalition of 61-65 MKs, internal opposition could topple it.
Meanwhile, Yisrael Beiteinu's leader MK Avigdor Lieberman is adamant in demanding that Daniel Friedmann be kept as justice minister and that his party chair the Knesset Constitution Committee.
Shalom says Netanyahu broke his promise to give him the most senior portfolio among the Likud ministers, and is demanding the vice premiership as well.
Netanyahu's aides say he will find a way to keep his promise, but that Shalom will not be vice premier.
Netanyahu intends to appoint 11 Likud ministers instead of 10, in a bid to calm the criticism.
Netanyahu mentioned Yisrael Beiteinu's large number of Knesset seats in his bid to temper his partymembers' heavy criticism.
"Kadima does not want a unity government and Barak has presented limiting factors that would force us to part with our natural partners," he added. "This is a complex set of circumstances that impose restrictions. The public chatter is weakening us vis-a-vis our partners."
"If we are united, we can get more," Netanyahu told the disgruntled MKs. "I am open to advice if someone believes he has a better plan."
Netanyahu's comments came after Shalom denied reports Sunday that he had told the prime minister-designate that he did not want to be finance minister.
Shalom, who is believed to want back the foreign ministry post, which he held under Ariel Sharon, told supporters on Sunday night that he is intent on preserving Likud unity "though unity needs to be everybody's goal."