The operative alliance between Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid on one side and Shaul Mofaz on the other is strengthening: The three met Thursday in Ra’anana to unite forces against what they consider to be too lax a framework for drafting the ultra-Orthodox proposed by Likud as part of the coalition negotiations. Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Benett’s Habayit Hayehudi have already linked their demands in the coalition negotiations with Likud.
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Lapid and Mofaz met with Bennett at his home in Ra’anana Thursday morning and agreed to continue cooperating on the matter of sharing the burden the code word for drafting Haredim. Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party, which has already signed a coalition agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is also expected to strongly oppose Likud’s proposed plan for drafting Haredim and support an arrangement similar to that of Lapid, Bennett and Mofaz.
This united front may force Netanyahu to change his position on the matter.
Last summer, Mofaz quit the previous government before the election only 70 days after joining the coalition, after Netanyahu refused to adopt the recommendations of the committee headed by former Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner that studied the issue of the Haredi draft. Instead, Netanyahu chose to accept a proposal much more amenable to the Haredim formulated by Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon.
The coalition negotiating team from Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to renew its talks this morning at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan. Habayit Hayehudi is expected first to meet the negotiators. In addition to the issue of drafting Haredim, Habayit Hayehudi representatives are expected to express their dismay at the appointment of Livni to be in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians, and demand she be removed from that role.
Netanyahu has instructed his negotiating team to act to complete a coalition agreement with Bennett tomorrow, said a Likud source. “There is no reason that Habayit Hayehudi will not be part of the government of the national camp,” he said.
Next in line will be Shas. An agreement with Shas is almost ready, said sources familiar with the negotiations, but the signing will be postponed to at least next week to allow Netanyahu more time to exhaust the negotiations with Mofaz, Lapid and Bennett.
“We are now facing two main possibilities to put together a coalition,” said a Likud source. “One is based on the Haredi parties, Habayit Hayehudi, Hatnuah and Kadima. The second is based on Yesh Atid, Habayit Hayehudi and Hatnuah. In the next few days it will become clearer which of them is better for us,” he said.
Lapid promised on Thursday to stick to his principles and not give in on such issues as drafting Haredim as a condition for joining the coalition. “Whoever says that in the end we will give in simply does not know us,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Lapid seemingly hinted his criticism of Livni’s joining the coalition: “We are a party that can lead peace negotiations that has behind it real political power, and not just create fig leafs that will allow four more years of stagnation,” he said.
A senior Habayit Hayehudi official said Thursday that the party also had no intention of going back on its joint efforts with Yesh Atid. He said it was not the link to Lapid that was torpedoing the talks, since there were no negotiations going on anyway. Netanyahu is constantly busy with breaking up alliances instead of talking about real issues, he said.