Jewish Home turns down Likud’s coalition proposal

Jewish Home turns down Likud’s coalition proposal

Right-wing party offered Education Ministry and more, but insists policy differences take precedence over cabinet appointments

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett (right) sits in Knesset with Likud's Zeev Elkin, Monday, February 11, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett (right) sits in Knesset with Likud's Zeev Elkin, Monday, February 11, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Jewish Home party rejected an offer of senior ministerial posts in return for a pledge to “immediately” join a Likud-led coalition, and wouldn’t make any such a commitments before the government’s future policy outlines were hammered out, a senior source in the Orthodox right-wing party said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett the key job of education minister if his party agreed to declare within 48 hours that it would be joining the coalition. But Bennett turned down the offer, saying he wouldn’t team up with Netanyahu until an agreed-upon platform was established for the new government, including regarding a new conscription law that would apply to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox.

In addition to the Education Ministry, the Jewish Home was offered a top economic portfolio and the position of deputy defense minister for one of its representatives. Some Israeli news outlets reported that Bennett was also awarded dibs on the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which has been in the hands of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party since 2003.

On Tuesday, reports of the Likud offer were leaked to the press, but the Jewish Home, when asked to comment, called the leaks “spin” and said it had no knowledge of the bid.

On Wednesday, after apparently receiving official word of the offer, sources in the party again criticized Likud, saying the proposition had arrived “dozens of hours after we’d heard about it on the news.” The offer was “irrelevant and unacceptable,” they added, reiterating the need to first agree on the government’s “stances regarding principle positions and subjects” before deciding who would occupy what office.

The Jewish Home and Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid have indicated that without an equitable solution to the question of drafting the ultra-Orthodox, they wouldn’t join a Netanyahu coalition. The two parties have been consistent in their messaging to the effect that the issue was more important than the jockeying for ministerial positions.

With their respective 19 and 12 seats, Yesh Atid and Jewish Home can form a make-or-break bloc for Netanyahu’s coalition aspirations.

Universal conscription was a major theme of coalition negotiations on Tuesday between representatives of the Likud-Beytenu and Yesh Atid. During the meeting, Likud presented its formula for ultra-Orthodox induction, which Yesh Atid said it would study ahead of the next round of talks.

The new plan, details of which were not made available to the press, was drafted by Likud after Yesh Atid and Jewish Home rejected a previous outline that was formulated by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon in 2012.

Bennett said later Tuesday that he and Lapid “share a direction” even though they “don’t agree on everything.”

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