Lapid eyeing Foreign Ministry post despite Liberman’s dibs

Lapid eyeing Foreign Ministry post despite Liberman’s dibs

Likud-Beytenu to pitch universal draft proposal to Yesh Atid in Monday coalition talks; Jewish Home leader to meet Netanyahu

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Yesh Atid leader, Yair Lapid, at the opening session of the Knesset, February 5, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Yesh Atid leader, Yair Lapid, at the opening session of the Knesset, February 5, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid will reportedly continue to push for the Foreign Ministry post, despite the ruling alliance’s insistence that the coveted ministerial portfolio will remain with Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party.

Coalition talks have yet to yield clear results as they enter their second week. Lapid will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, and the Likud is expected to present to Yesh Atid its proposals for resolving the issue of ultra-Orthodox conscription.

Netanyahu will also meet Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett for the first time since coalition talks started last Saturday, their first meeting in five years since Bennett quit as Netanyahu’s chief of staff

Lapid reportedly said Sunday he prefers the Foreign Ministry, because he doesn’t feel qualified for the other two senior positions offered to him: defense and finance, according to Channel 10.

Liberman on Saturday said in an interview on Channel 2 that Lapid, who ran on a campaign of fiscal responsibility, ought to head the Finance Ministry.

“I am not appropriate for the finance portfolio, so I will not take it,” Lapid was quoted by the station as saying behind closed doors. “For the same reason, I won’t take the Defense Ministry.”

On Saturday, Liberman said that the Foreign Ministry would stay in Yisrael Beytenu’s hands, despite the fact that he had to step down from the post late last year to fight fraud and breach-of-trust charges.

Channel 10 reported that Lapid will still seek the Finance Ministry for his party as a possible alternative to Foreign, as well as some or all of the interior, housing, education and justice portfolios. The Justice Ministry is eyed by Yisrael Beytenu as well, Channel 10 reported.

Should Yesh Atid, which campaigned on mainly socioeconomic issues, assume the finance portfolio, the ministerial position would likely be filled by someone with professional experience, the TV report said.

Ahead of Bennett’s meeting with Netanyahu, his former boss, Bennett on Sunday apologized for comments he made on the campaign trail about Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife.

“The attack on Sara Netanyahu was very out of place,” he told Army Radio. “She is a good woman who loves her husband, and it is his complete right to consult with her, just as I consult with my wife.”

Bennett and Netanyahu once worked closely together, but, for reasons that remain unclear, the two went their separate ways. Netanyahu has thus far avoided contact with Bennett but late last week said he would meet with the right-wing rival, who is angling for a spot in the coalition.

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