Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will ask President Reuven Rivlin for a two-week extension for his coalition negotiations, according to a Saturday statement from the Likud party.
The statement said Netanyahu was seeking to extend the May 14 deadline to assemble the coalition until May 28, citing the busy holiday season as well as recent security incidents in the Gaza Strip as having delayed coalition-building efforts. Although the negotiations are complex, the prospective coalition parties are all indicating that they will eventually sign up to enable Netanyahu to build a majority.
Rivlin asked Netanyahu to form a coalition to govern the 21st Knesset last month, after senior members of parties representing 65 of the 120 Knesset members recommended him for prime minister.
Though Netanyahu’s Likud party tied with Blue and White in the April elections with 35 seats apiece, Netanyahu was the only one with enough potential partners to cobble together a governing coalition.
Netanyahu is attempting to build a right-wing coalition of 65 seats comprised of Likud (35), Shas (8), United Torah Judaism (8), Union of Right-Wing Parties (5), Yisrael Beytenu (5) and Kulanu (4).
Talks have been bumpy amid disputes over issues of religion and state between the secularist Yisrael Beytenu and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and UTJ parties.
Last week, UTJ canceled coalition negotiations after finding out that thousands of permits had been issued to allow people to work on Shabbat during the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Netanyahu’s six nascent coalition partners reportedly approved a request by the prime minister to change legislation removing the limitation on the number of ministers in the government.
According to Channel 12 news, parties agreed to change one of Israel’s semi-constitutional Basic Laws in order to allow the move. Currently the law allows a maximum of 19 ministers.
Netanyahu is believed to be struggling to satisfy the many demands of the six parties, with more partners clamoring for ministerial positions than there are ministries to accommodate them.
Last week, Channel 12 reported that Kulanu leader and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is insisting on keeping the Finance Ministry for himself as a precondition for joining the coalition, despite Netanyahu’s offer to appoint him as foreign minister.
Likud would prefer to hold the treasury post with one of its own lawmakers by transferring it to acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, the report said, but Kahlon’s insistence means he will likely retain the position and Katz could become the permanent foreign minister.
Channel 12 said that Bezalel Smotrich, the Union of Right Wing Parties No 2., is insisting on heading the Justice Ministry, but is unlikely to get the position, and will probably be relegated to a lesser post, like Ministry of Housing and Construction.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman has reportedly demanded the Defense Ministry and the Immigration and Absorption Ministry for his party.