Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to build a coalition with the Jewish Home and Yesh Atid parties, but he’d rather form a government with Shelly Yachimovich’s Labor party, according to a senior source involved in coalition talks.
“Although there will be certain problems [between Netanyahu's Likud-Beytenu faction and Labor] with respect to economic policies, those can be overcome,” the unnamed source close to the prime minister told Channel 1. “The pressure is now on Shelly. There are discussions behind the scenes … the ultra-Orthodox are also talking to her,” according to the official.
Publicly, Yachimovich has consistently rejected calls to join a Netanyahu-led government, citing irreconcilable ideological differences. Her position has at times been criticized by members of her own party.
On Friday, coalition talks between Likud-Beytenu and Jewish Home ended abruptly, with a top Likud negotiator declaring that Naftali Bennett’s national-religious faction opposed the inclusion of the ultra-Orthodox parties in the next government.
“The Jewish Home party wants Haredim excluded from the next coalition exactly like Yesh Atid wants them excluded,” Likud’s chief negotiator, attorney David Shimron, said after the meeting at the Kfar Maccabiah Hotel in Ramat Gan. Sources in Jewish Home denied his comments, but Jewish Home has allied with centrist Yesh Atid in the coalition jockeying, and Yesh Atid is opposed to ultra-Orthodox participation in the next government without a radical reform that brings almost all young ultra-Orthodox males into military or national service.
On Thursday, Shimron said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was still committed to forming as wide a coalition as possible, rebuffing what he said were calls by Yesh Atid to leave the Haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism in the opposition.
The only party that has officially signed on to join Likud-Beytenu in the next government is Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, with its six Knesset seats.
If Labor, with its 15 Knesset seats were to unexpectedly join Likud-Beytenu (31), Netanyahu could then turn to Shas (11) and United Torah Judaism (7) to complete a 70-seat Knesset majority.
On Saturday night, Netanyahu was expected to ask President Shimon Peres for a 14-day extension to form a government; if he cannot do so by March 16, Peres may invite another politician to try. If all else fails, new elections would eventually be called.