Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to keep his outgoing defense minister, foreign minister and economy minister in their posts, an Israeli TV report said Friday night, but faces extremely complicated negotiations to build a coalition.
Israeli TV and newspapers have been rife with speculation in the past three days over who will get which portfolio in the next government, with Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) and Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) both said to be eyeing the defense minister’s job.
Israel’s Channel 2 news Friday night said Bennett wants the defense role for himself and the education portfolio for a party colleague, and that Liberman might not join the coalition at all if he doesn’t get the defense post.
Netanyahu’s preference, the report said, is to retain Likud colleague Moshe Ya’alon as defense minister, leave Liberman at the Foreign Ministry and keep Bennett at the Economy Ministry — an arrangement certain to be unacceptable to Bennett.
Channel 2 also claimed that defeated Zionist Union head, Isaac Herzog, refused to rule out sitting in a coalition with Netanyahu in an interview that it conducted with him on Friday and will broadcast on Saturday. Since being beaten Tuesday in general elections with 24 seats for his Zionist Union to 30 for Netanyahu’s Likud, Herzog has spoken publicly about leading the opposition and given no hint of interest in serving as a junior coalition partner. Neither has Netanyahu expressed any interest in having Zionist Union in his coalition, though the possibility of such a scenario might pressure his right-wing allies/rivals into lowering their demands in the coalition talks.
In further unconfirmed and somewhat bizarre reports, Channel 2 also claimed Moshe Kahlon, the former Likud minister whose new Kulanu party won 10 seats in Tuesday’s elections, wants centrist Yesh Atid to join the coalition as well.
Several reports Friday said Kahlon was to endorse Netanyahu for another term in office when he meets next week with President Reuven Rivlin to discuss who should head the next coalition.
Kahlon has demanded the post of finance minister in the new government, but is also said to seek other positions of influence for party members, including the chair of the powerful Knesset Finance Committee and responsibility for aspects of housing and construction. His key goal, he said in returning to politics ahead of the March 17 elections, was to reduce the cost of living in Israel and bring down soaring housing prices.
Netanyahu seems set to form a six-party right-wing/ultra-Orthodox coalition, comprising Likud (30 seats), Kulanu (10 seats), Jewish Home (8 seats), Shas (7 seats) Yisrael Beytenu (6 seats) and United Torah Judaism (6 seats), giving him 67 seats in the 120-member Knesset.