‘Yesh Atid, Jewish Home will make or break government’

Coalition talks hampered by parties’ novel determination to fulfill their election promises, Likud source reportedly says

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

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid (left) and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett at a conference in Ramat Gan, December 17, 2012 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid (left) and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett at a conference in Ramat Gan, December 17, 2012 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The centrist, secular-oriented Yesh Atid party and the national religious Jewish Home party have reportedly forged an agreement under which they will either both join a coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or, together, opt out of such a coalition if Netanyahu doesn’t accede to their policy demands.

A report Monday in the Hebrew daily Maariv quoted senior Likud party members to the effect that the two parties’ agreement to cooperate on a universal draft law was more extensive than previously reported and was also aimed at heading off a scenario wherein either Yesh Atid or the Jewish Home would be left out of a coalition that would then be propped up by ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.

On Monday, the two parties appeared to cement an informal agreement on the national draft, a central issue for Yesh Atid and its ascendant leader Yair Lapid. According to Maariv, the two parties agreed in principle that all sectors of Israeli society should be enlisted into military or other national service.

With coalition talks set to proceed Monday at the Kfar Maccabiah Hotel in Ramat Gan, some in Netanyahu’s Likud-Yisrael Beytenu faction said the various parties were proving intractable in their stances, making the quest for headway in negotiations surprisingly laborious.

A senior Likud member told Israel Radio that Netanyahu was confronting potential partners whose stances were dictated by standards that were “new to Israeli politics,” namely that they were genuinely set on fulfilling their promises to the electorate.

Still other sources said that Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party would join a Netanyahu-led coalition, regardless of the other political ingredients of such a government.

A formal “both-or-none” agreement between Yesh Atid and Jewish Home could have enormous bearing on the coalition. Lapid’s band of political newcomers won 19 seats in the election, while Bennett’s party netted 12. Their combined total represents over 25 percent of the total 120 Knesset seats, and if both parties choose to stay out of the government, Netanyahu would be forced to reach across the aisle to the Labor Party, which has declared unequivocally that it wouldn’t join a coalition presided over by Likud-Beytenu — effectively leaving him out of options to form a government.

Lapid has indicated that he’s perfectly willing to stay out of a Netanyahu-led coalition. According to a Channel 2 report Sunday, he even expressed confidence in his ability to replace Netanyahu as prime minister within a short span of time.

“I’m not sure I’ll be in the coalition,” Lapid reportedly told his aides. “I might lead the opposition. Netanyahu will impose financial cutbacks that will hurt the middle class. In a year and a half, I’ll replace him. That’s what my advisers think, too.”

Gabe Fisher contributed to this report.

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