Jewish Home gets the call it was waiting for

Prime minister speaks with Naftali Bennett as he begins tentative coalition talks

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, January, 2013 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, January, 2013 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed a phone call to Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett Thursday, as election rivalries began to make way for coalition talks.

According to Jewish Home officials, Bennett and Netanyahu congratulated each other on their election successes, but reportedly did not schedule a face-to-face meeting.

Despite that fact that Jewish Home quadrupled the national religious voice in the Knesset to win 12 seats, the party was apparently not near the top of Netanyahu’s call list.

Netanyahu contacted Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid shortly after the first exit polls came out on Tuesday evening, and he met Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid on Thursday. 

In the past three months, while campaigning was at its peak, Netanyahu’s Likud party expended great effort to discredit Bennett’s party, which it saw as the main competitor for the right-wing vote.

Benneyt worked as an aide to Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister.

On Wednesday Netanyahu laid out his principles for forming a new government. Netanyahu said that a more equitable distribution of the national burden, affordable housing and changing the system of government would be his coalition’s three top priorities.

“I spoke to [Likud-Beytenu No. 2] Avigdor Liberman and we decided that we will focus our talks on these three core issues, in addition to maintaining Israel’s security, in an effort to build as broad a coalition as possible,” Netanyahu told reporters the day after the election.

The declaration seemed to be aimed primarily at Yesh Atid party leader Lapid, who won 19 seats with a campaign that focused exactly on those issues. Lapid on Wednesday said he would not help to form a blocking majority against Netanyahu and by doing so indicated interest in joining a Likud-Beytenu-led coalition.

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