Yesh-Home pact could bring new elections, Likud warns

Potential coalition partners pooh-pooh purported Netanyahu threat to go back to the polls if they don’t give in

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 2013 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 2013 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not give in to the demands of the Yesh Atid and the Jewish Home factions — even if it means holding new elections, sources within his Likud-Beytenu faction said in a media report published Monday.

Several rounds of talks with representatives from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party have failed to reach an agreement for either party to join the coalition because, reportedly, neither is prepared to give up on the core principles of its platform.

“Bennett better not tug too hard on the rope because it will snap,” a Likud-Beytenu source said, according to the Maariv report. “Netanyahu is prepared to go to elections; the important thing is to not give in to the pact that [Bennett] has with Lapid.”

The comments came hours after Yesh Atid and Jewish Home formally notified Likud-Beytenu that they had formed an alliance in which the two parties will either join the government together or join the opposition. Both parties are intent on legislating the conscription of ultra-Orthodox Israelis into military or national service.

The Likud-Beytenu strategy until now has focused on prying the two parties apart, specifically the right-wing Jewish Home, which is considered a more natural ally for Likud-Beytenu.

It’s not clear if Netanyahu would actually be willing to go through with another round of elections after his joint faction performed well below expectations last month. However, should he fail to garner the necessary 61 seats for a unity government, he may be forced to call a new vote in any case.

“Netanyahu is threatening with an empty gun,” a senior source in Jewish Home told the paper. “If we went to the vote today Likud would get 12 seats because the public will punish him for not forming the most natural government — with us — which is what the government should have been right from the start. Instead of doing the simple thing, the Likud is getting caught up in endless spin.”

A central sticking point in the coalition talks has been the question of a universal military draft that will also draw on conscripts from the ultra-Orthodox community, who have traditionally been allowed to defer service permanently.

Both Yesh Atid and Jewish Home have made it clear they would not budge from their demand to legislate national draft laws while the ultra-Orthodox parties, which historically are Netanyahu’s coalition partners, are staunchly opposed to the plan.

Yet without one of Jewish Home or Yesh Atid, it will be nearly impossible for Netanyahu to get the necessary seats to form a government.

According to the sources quoted in the report, Netanyahu, who has repeatedly spoken of forming a wide coalition, is equally determined to keep the ultra-Orthodox parties in the government, which may preclude Yesh Atid’s and Jewish Home’s participation.

Leader of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid seen with Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, February, 2013. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
Leader of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid seen with Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, February 2013. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“There is no situation in which Netanyahu will give up on the Haredi parties,” a source said. “Bennett and Lapid should let that sink in. Netanyahu is not prepared to bring Lapid into the coalition before he makes an agreement with his natural partners.”

As the stand-off drags on, Likud has taken an increasingly belligerent attitude toward Jewish Home and its party leader.

According to the report, the Likud party has in the last few days been distributing memos to its MKs that criticize the Lapid-Bennett alliance and lambaste Bennett in particular for critically damaging the right-wing, motivated, it claims, by self-interest.

Other Likud-Beytenu sources said that, in their opinion, Bennett will have a hard time explaining to his voters why he failed to join what could have been a strong right-wing government.

“How will his voters deal with the fact that re-elections were held just because he didn’t agree to close a deal on the coalition,” a source asked. “Let’s see Bennett explain to his voters that a right-wing government wasn’t formed because he didn’t want the Haredi parties in it. We will prove to the public that Jewish Home is not a center-right party but rather center-left.”

A source in Jewish Home told Yedioth Ahronoth that the party may consider reccomending another member of the Likud-Beytenu faction to form a government when they next meet with president Shimon Peres over the issue, the paper reported Monday.

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