Israel's coalition talks are stuck fast. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his people are mum about the form of coalition they would like to build, if they can. They have not laid out guidelines for a coalition agreement before any of their partners in negotiations. "There are no talks via any serious conduit," said a source at one of the parties on Sunday. "Netanyahu hasn't decided what sort of government he would like yet. He isn't engaging in substance and content, just in offering portfolios."
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For his part, Netanyahu sounded miffed at Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett on Sunday, following his unsuccessful attempt to break up their alliance. In the meeting of Likud ministers, the prime minister said the two were aiming to reach a “specific political result,” rather than trying to forge a compromise that other factions could accept.
It seems Netanyahu was referring to the firm rejection from both Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi to Eugene Kandel’s proposal for a way to share the burden of army service by all.
"The document is an insult," said a political source of Kandel's proposal. Kandel offered a negligible disincentive for draft-age Haredim, which would do nothing to convince them to join the army.
That "negligible disincentive" is an NIS 160 per month cut from government allowances – roughly 2 percent of an average Haredi family’s monthly income.
Seen otherwise, the government presently gives the yeshivas about NIS 1 billion a year, and each yeshiva student gets about NIS 800 per month in state support.
The political uncertainty emanating from the prime minister’s bureau is strengthening the alliance that Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi formed over the past few weeks. An official handling political talks with both parties on Sunday accused Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister's wife, of pushing Yesh Atid chairman Naftali Bennett into Yair Lapid's arms.
"She imposed her personal conflict with Bennett on the coalition talks, ‘killing’ 31 seats that should have joined Netanyahu easily,” the source said.
Another source said, “Netanyahu wants to serve as prime minister. He cares less about what his government will do. But to reach an agreement with Yesh Atid, Habayit Hayehudi, the Haredi parties and even Labor, Netanyahu is going to have to have profound discussions about vital issues, with burden-sharing equality at the top of the agenda. He hasn’t done that so far. Profound discussions take time, and time is running out.”
Shas and Habayit Hayehudi send feelers
Meanwhile, Shas officials are also trying to shatter the Bennett-Lapid alliance. Aryeh Deri, one of the religious party's three leaders, met yesterday with Bennett for the first time.
The meeting, which was described as an introductory meeting, focused on the very issue of national service.
Deri’s associates described last night’s meeting as “excellent,” hinting that he is leading a move that will cross party boundaries. Other Shas officials were less keen: the shape of politics now depends more on Bennett and Netanyahu, they said.