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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hmmm Netanyahu meets with Shas

Could something be up? Frustrated with the pace of coalition negotiations, Prime Minister Netanyahu met on Tuesday night with Shas leader Eli Yishai.
Coalition talks between Likud Beytenu and Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi remained at a near-standstill Tuesday, meaning that the government will most likely be sworn in next week. Amid the growing hurdles to form the government Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with joint chief of Shas MK and Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Tuesday night. 
Likud Beytenu’s hopes of signing an agreement with Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi by Tuesday, presenting his choices to President Shimon Peres Wednesday and then having the government sworn in on Thursday following the legally mandated 24-hour waiting period, were dashed. Netanyahu’s deadline to form a coalition is Saturday night.
A new bone of contention arose between the parties – the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee – and this time, Bayit Yehudi joined in the wrangling.
In a clear sign of strife between former allies, Bayit Yehudi made public its demand for the powerful committee – which carries the political cache of a ministry – citing the fact that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid had received the Finance portfolio that Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett coveted, and that Bayit Yehudi had gone down from four to three ministries due to Yesh Atid’s demands for a smaller government.
Sources in Bennett’s party have expressed frustration over having made concessions to help Yesh Atid achieve many of its objectives in coalition talks, while the latter has not done the same for them.


On Tuesday night, perhaps in recognition of the growing cracks between Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid the PM meet with joint chief of Shas MK and Interior Minister Eli Yishai. The Shas lawmaker on Wednesday morning commented on the coalition negotiation process, which he has been largely excluded from up to this point saying, "My heart goes out to the prime minister who is expected in the coming years to be prisoner to the whims of Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi."
Another hitch in coalition talks is the number of ministries Hatnua would get. Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni and Likud Beytenu want to leave it at two, as agreed upon in the parties’ coalition deal. However, Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi’s portfolios go according to a ministerial index of one per every four MKs, and they are demanding that the six-MK Hatnua follow the same proportion.
Meanwhile, the clash between Likud Beytenu and Yesh Atid over the Education portfolio – with the former insisting that current Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar stay in the post and the latter wanting it to go to its own MK Shai Piron – continued. Another option would be for Sa’ar to become interior minister, but Yesh Atid has demanded to hold both disputed portfolios.
Also Tuesday, a halachic responsum that Piron – a former rabbi at the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva – issued during the second intifada came to light, saying that Jewish people should not rent homes to Arabs. Sources in Yesh Atid accused the Likud of searching for “dirt” on Piron to deter the party from holding on to the Education portfolio.
 There are three possibilities here:

1. Netanyahu is hoping to convince Labor's Shelly Yacimovitch to join the Haredim and give him a coalition. That's kind of hard to believe given no reports of Netanyahu meeting with Yacimovitch.

2. Netanyahu has decided that Yesh Atid is more trouble than they're worth, and has actually started to convince Bayit Yehudi of the same thing. This dovetails with a mass letter of support from National Religious rabbis to Haredi rabbis that was reported in the Haredi media on Tuesday. Possible, but not the most likely possibility.

3. Netanyahu is trying to pressure Yair Lapid to get a deal done already by reminding him that there are other options. This seems most likely.

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