Likud Tells Partners: Ease Up on Portfolio Demands

Key Likud MKs say party should keep foreign affairs and defense rather than give them to partners. Kahlon expected to get Finance Ministry. Lieberman may remain foreign minister while Shas may seek Interior.

AFP

As President Reuven Rivlin began his effort to determine who will form the next coalition, key Likud Party members signaled to their potential partners that they must moderate their demands so Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can quickly form a stable government.

And with those signals, the jockeying for ministerial posts — and discussions of which party might get which portfolio — began in earnest.

In particular, current Likud cabinet members want the ruling party to keep the defense and foreign-affairs portfolios rather than give them to Habayit Hayehudi or Yisrael Beiteinu.

Rivlin on Sunday began consultations with representatives of all the parties that won Knesset seats in the new government. After those talks, he’ll name either Netanyahu or Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog to form a government.

“I call on the parties’ representatives to recognize the gravity of the responsibility, to demonstrate flexibility and responsibility, so we can face the challenges together,” Likud MK Yisrael Katz said yesterday after leaving Rivlin’s office.

Seeking a stable government

MK Gilad Erdan noted that Rivlin moved faster into the consultations than he otherwise might have, which “expresses a need to move quickly, and that is a message also toward our partners and the opposition.”

And Likud Knesset whip Ze’ev Elkin said, “We recommended Netanyahu. As the president said, the people have spoken clearly. We call on the other parties to recommend Netanyahu so that a stable and functioning government can be established.”

Likud MKs Yariv Levin and Silvan Shalom said their party, which won 30 seats, the most of any party, must keep the foreign and defense ministries.

Levin also said Likud must also control “key social portfolios so as to best be able to address all of the issues we promised to during the campaign.” A coalition that can govern for four years must be formed without delay, Levin added.

Speaking with Army Radio Sunday morning, Shalom said possible coalition partners “need to face reality and understand which party is leading and which is the largest. Obviously they need to be more modest” in their demands.

Katz told Israel Radio Sunday that he was certain he would serve in a senior post in the next government. He added that he “hoped the partners will recognize that it was the prime minister and Likud that got the mandate from the public.”

Finance seen going to Kahlon

People within Likud say that the Finance Ministry will probably go to Moshe Kahlon, head of the domestic-agenda-focused Kulanu Party. But whether Netanyahu would give foreign affairs and defense to, respectively, his presumed coalition partners Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu and Naftali Bennett of Habayit Hayehudi remained unclear.

“There’s no reason for Netanyahu to give senior ministries to Lieberman, who won only six seats, and Bennett, who crashed to eight” MKs from 12, said one person within Likud. This person said the partner parties must recognize that their power has declined.

But other Likud people suggested that giving these positions to partners, rather than to Likud MKs, could be a smart tactical move to help ensure a stable, long-lasting government.

Lieberman, who wants the Defense Ministry, may instead remain foreign minister, a post that Bennett and at least three other incumbent ministers — Likud’s Erdan, Shalom and Yuval Steinitz — also want.

Lieberman is also expected to ask that the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, currently held by Sofa Landver, remain in his party. He may also request the Social Affairs Ministry for his party’s Orly Levy-Abekasis.

Bennett: Religious Affairs and Housing?

Bennett is expected to request the Religious Affairs and the Housing and Construction ministries for Habayit Hayehudi.

Shas Chairman Arye Dery of Shas is thought likely to seek the Interior Ministry, as well as a deputy finance portfolio for a party MK. At the same time Dery is expected to ask Netanyahu not to expand the cabinet beyond 18 posts.

United Torah Judaism, which has no cabinet members, is expected to request the deputy health portfolio for Chairman Yaakov Litzman and another deputy portfolio for MK Meir Porush. UTJ also seeks to control the Knesset Finance Committee.

Likud people suggested that the Public Security Ministry might go to Kulanu’s Yoav Galant or Habayit Hayehudi’s Ayelet Shaked, who has expressed interest in it.