Kahlon Set to Launch Full-fledged Coalition Talks With Likud

Negotiations hit snag last week after Kulanu party negotiators boycotted meeting with Likud after reports that key posts had been earmarked for ultra-Orthodox parties.

Reuters

Moshe Kahlon’s centrist Kulanu party is expected to enter full-fledged coalition talks with Likud early this week, Likud sources said on Saturday. 

“Over the past few days talks have been ongoing with Moshe Kahlon’s people, and we get the impression that by tomorrow or the day after it should be possible to schedule a meeting for the negotiating teams,” a Likud source told Haaretz.

Kulanu officials declined to comment.

Last week, Kahlon ordered his negotiating team to boycott a meeting with Likud after the media reported that key posts including the Knesset Finance Committee had been earmarked for the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Over the weekend, Likud said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had updated Kahlon about his plan to give the finance committee to MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism and the Interior Ministry’s Planning Directorate to Shas leader Arye Dery.

“Mr. Kahlon learned nothing new from the media reports,” Likud said in a statement. A senior Likud official added that “Kahlon knew full well that the finance committee would go to Gafni.”

“From what we gather, [Kahlon] is willing to give up on this issue, and it’s possible to reach an understanding with Gafni that will satisfy Kahlon,” the official said. “The tougher problem is the Planning Directorate. Kahlon will have to deal with Dery’s demand for the Directorate, and it’s unclear how the dispute between them will be settled.”

As of right now, three key issues are hampering the coalition talks. Aside from Kahlon’s boycott, Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett is fighting for a key portfolio.

“Tension with Habayit Hayehudi is only about the position Bennett will receive,” a Likud official said. “There is no real dispute about the number of portfolios for his party, or the basic guidelines for the cabinet, other demands that can’t be solved through negotiations.”

Talks have taken place in recent days between Habayit Hayehudi and Likud to find a solution for Bennett’s party. Habayit Hayehudi, however, fears that Likud wants to enlist Zionist Union and form a grand coalition.

“There are no negotiations with Likud. They’re biding their time. Likud hasn’t made any offers, so it’s unclear how they’ve reached their conclusions. They say [Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor] Lieberman will be foreign minister with six Knesset seats. That doesn’t quite add up with the statements that Bennett’s demands are unrealistic,” a Habayit Hayehudi official said.

“In Likud they’re saying that it’s preferable not to shuffle people around, and at the same time they’re giving the housing portfolio and the finance committee, currently run by us, to other parties. In short, they should get their claims straight, sit down for negotiations and not make contradictory claims – because we’re getting dizzy.”

Another sticking point is expected to be over the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee. According to officials involved in the negotiations, Yisrael Beiteinu is demanding the committee chairmanship, probably for MK Orly Levi-Abekasis.