ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Zionist Union denies it seeks to join Netanyahu government

Rumors of back-channel talks gain ground after Shas leader Aryeh Deri tweets his support for ‘a broad unity government’

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Zionist Union leader MK Isaac Herzog in the Knesset, January 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Zionist Union leader MK Isaac Herzog in the Knesset, January 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The center-left Zionist Union party was forced to deny on Monday night that it was engaged in back-channel negotiations to join the Likud-led government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rumors about supposed secret talks were given added credence following a Monday night tweet from Shas party leader Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who said, “I very much hope that the rumors about the start of negotiations between Likud and Zionist Union are correct.”

He welcomed the prospect of a unity government.

“May we awaken in the morning and be greeted with the news of the formation of a broad unity government for the benefit of the people of Israel,” he wrote on the social network.

Zionist Union, a joint list composed of the Labor and Hatnua parties, was quick to deny Deri’s purported “rumors.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri at the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, January 10, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri at the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, January 10, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

“Do you know something that we in Zionist Union don’t know?” tweeted Zionist Union MK Hilik Bar, who also serves as Labor’s secretary general and would likely be part of any coalition talks, in response to the Shas leader.

“Apparently these are negotiations between Bibi [a nickname for Netanyahu] and Netanyahu. And may it stay that way,” Bar finished.

In a brief statement to the press, Zionist Union Knesset officials said the rumor was “simply untrue.”

Netanyahu has not hidden his desire to expand his razor-thin 61-seat coalition in the 120-seat Knesset, and has called on opposition parties, including Zionist Union, to join his government several times over the past year.

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