Likud, Habayit Hayehudi Facing Off in Coalition Talks

Negotiations trudging along slowly as parties try to compromise on key ministerial portfolios.

Emil Salman

Likud officials have estimated in recent days that among the three portfolios Bennett is likely to demand – defense, education, and religious affairs – his party will only receive one, in addition to two other portfolios that have yet to be determined.

Earlier this week, Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked suggested a law to be implemented by the next government. The bill would force any organization seeking tax exempt donations from foreign sources to receive approval from the Defense Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Nir Orbach, Habayit Hayehudi director general and a member of the party’s coalition negotiating team, said on Thursday that “it’s no secret that the Likud’s conduct in recent days is creating complex considerations,” and said that aside from the NGO bill, the party will demand implementation of a plan to improve the economy in northern Israel, as well as a salary raise for IDF soldiers. MK Ze’ev Elkin, on the Likud’s negotiating team, said “the meeting was held in good spirits, and we were presented with 39 demands with a budget price tag in the billions. That’s how negotiations start, I’m sure that we’ll know how to move forward.” His colleague MK Yariv Levin said that Likud is interested in reaching an understanding with Habayit Hayehudi. “Today was about demanding as much as you can, but I think that the talks with the Habayit Hayehudi were positive and productive.”

Bennett met on Thursday with Netanyahu in an attempt to make progress in the negotiations in private, without success. Their previous meeting also ended without any significant progress, and according to party sources, Habayit Hayehudi was not offered any portfolios. In a Facebook post before the meeting, Bennett wrote ‘unfortunately, it seems that the prime minister intends to bring Bougie/Tzipi in, and therefore is skipping us over. He also retracted his statement that he would not allow for a Palestinian state to be formed, and is going back on all of his commitments. From the opposition, if that’s what it comes to, we will be able to serve the people of Israel in a no-less influential way.”

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog was quick to respond to Bennett’s remarks. Herzog stated that his party “is not a bargaining chip in the race to destroy the state of Israel, in which Bennett and Bibi are both running. Bennett is crying and threatening about the opposition, anything in order to squeeze more settlements, more budgets for his associates, or a ministerial position that would harm Israel’s interests.”

“We’re going to be a strong opposition, and will fight against the dangerous government that will intensify our international isolation, worsen poverty and inequality, and continue to sow fear and destroy our chances for a positive diplomatic future,” continued Herzog.