Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approached at least two major opposition parties, asking them to join him in an extended coalition, sources close to the prime minister and the parties said Wednesday.
The sources said Netanyahu had sent representatives to meet with Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri and United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman, asking them to join a unity government — possibly to win their support for an expanded operation in the Gaza Strip.
Ynet quoted sources close to Netanyahu as saying that the prime minister had approached both UTJ and Shas with offers to join his coalition, and was likely to approach Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog as well.
While United Torah Judaism MKs denied that Netanyahu had put forward a “substantial” offer, Deri said there had indeed been “talk.”
However, Deri indicated on Wednesday that his party saw “no need” to enter the coalition.
“At this time, we see no need, and we will support the government from the outside,” read a statement from Deri’s office.
Sources close to Litzman told the Kikar Hashabat news site that reports of such a plan on Netanyahu’s part were “unfounded,” while a second, unnamed UTJ MK said that the ultra-Orthodox parties would be hard-pressed to join a government led by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid in light of a recent bill, spearheaded by Lapid, that would levy criminal penalties on yeshiva students who dodge IDF service.
The source told Kikar Hashabat that by passing laws to which the ultra-Orthodox public was opposed, Netanyahu had “passed the point of no return,” meaning that ultra-Orthodox parties would no longer agree to join his government.
“It is unthinkable that they should draft the Equal Service Bill, cut yeshiva budgets and support for ultra-Orthodox families and expect us to enter [the government] as if nothing had happened. That won’t happen. Netanyahu can dream about such a government, but it’s not realistic,” the source was quoted as saying.
Herzog, meanwhile, has yet to indicate that he has been approached by Netanyahu, and has instead been making a push of his own for a new coalition. On Monday, he warned that the government was “on the brink of collapse,” calling on Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid to pull their respective parties, Hatnua and Yesh Atid, out of Netanyahu’s coalition in order to establish a new government with Labor.
Herzog was responding to Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s announcement that he had decided to dismantle the joint Knesset faction his Yisrael Beytenu party had shared with Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party.
Lazar Berman and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.