Benjamin Netanyahu met with Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett on Monday for the first time in five years as talks over the next government coalition continued.
Netanyahu and Bennett discussed a laundry list of burning coalition issues and “scheduled a time to continue talking in the upcoming days,” a press release by the Prime Minister’s Office stated.
Bennett was Netanyahu’s former aide, but the two fell out and they are currently seen as rivals.
There was no immediate reaction to the meeting from Bennett’s camp.
Press reports of Bennett’s nationalist Jewish Home party allying with the centrist Yesh Atid faction in coalition negotiations have swirled in recent days.
On Monday, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid denied reports that he was seeking the foreign minister post in exchange for joining the coalition.
Holding Yesh Atid’s first official gathering at the party’s new room in the Knesset, Yair Lapid told his faction members “there are no talks about [ministerial] portfolios.”
“I’ve had good meetings with the prime minister,” Lapid said. “We were patient during the campaign and we are patient during the negotiations, at the end of which we’ll either join the coalition or go to the opposition.”
All the reports about posts and positions the party might be given were rumors, Lapid said. “No one talked about it with me.”
Other parties also held their first sessions in the Knesset since last month’s national elections.
Hatnua head Tzipi Livni told her party members that they would sit in the opposition if not given a say on diplomatic issues.
“The diplomatic process is the main issue we are fighting for in the coalition talks,” she said.
Labor Party head Shelly Yachimovich, who has vowed to stay out of the government, denied rumors that she would join Netanyahu if given the right ministerial portfolio.
Her party wouldn’t do Netanyahu’s bidding, she said, but ”any diplomatic progress will have our blessing from the opposition.”
Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu list won 31 seats in the January 22 elections, and one week later he was tasked by President Shimon Peres to form Israel’s next coalition government.
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