Lapid: Netanyahu Offered Foreign Ministry in Attempt to Bring Yesh Atid Into Coalition

Centrist leader and outspoken Netanyahu critic says his Yesh Atid party was also offered education, justice and agriculture portfolios but refused in wake of policy differences.

David Bachar

Knesset member Yair Lapid claimed Saturday that his centrist Yesh Atid party was offered key portfolios in exchanging for joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, but refused in wake of policy differences.

Lapid held a senior ministerial position in Netanyahu's previous government and is now one of its most outspoken critics, though he does not chair the opposition, a position held by Zionist Union leader MK Isaac Herzog.

Former Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Oren Nachshon

According to the purported offer, Lapid's party would receive three ministries currently controlled by the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party: the education portfolio, the justice portfolio and the agriculture portfolio. The offer, Lapid said, also included the coveted Foreign Ministry, and was rebuffed.

Lapid did not say who made the offer and on whose behalf, but he said that the message was passed to him through MK Jacob Perry, a former Shin Bet chief now serving as a lawmaker in Lapid's party.

The Likud vehemently denied the claim, saying that "no contact or offer was made by the prime minister or on his behalf to the Yesh Atid party.

Political sources with knowledge of Netanyahu's attempt to expand his fragile coalition said this week that "the prime minister has yet to decide if there is need to expand the government," which currently has a majority of only one seat in the Knesset (holding 61 of the 120-seat plenum).

"As of now, he [Netanyahu] believes the chances of recruiting Yisrael Beiteinu are much higher. [While] the possibility of having the Zionist Union join the coalition seem low now," he said.

In an interview with Meet the Press on Israel's Channel 2, Lapid said "we are constantly receiving offers They offered us the education portfolio, the justice portfolio and the agriculture portfolio. I wonder to what party they belong," he asked rhetorically in reference to the Habayit Hayehudi party.

"We said 'no' because I cannot represent policy that I do not believe in. I'm not even sure I know what this government's policy is," he added.

Lapid did not deny Netanyahu and himself spoke about the issue during their private meeting two weeks ago. "I met the prime minister not so long ago. I have a good reputation in the political scene that I don't leak what is said in private meetings," he said. Lapid also refused to backtrack from comments he made on Facebook, according to which "the radical left is traitorous." He defended the claim, saying "the desire to unify the people of Israel does not mean we have to surrender in the face of radicals. I stand against any radicals discourse for both the left and the right."