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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's come to this: Likud gives Lapid an ultimatum

Remember the 57 MK scenario?
The prime minister’s associates have talked about forming a coalition of 57 MKs, and then telling Bennett ahead of the deadline to either join or initiate an election the Right could lose.
That scenario is looking a lot more likely this afternoon as Prime Minister Netanyahu has given Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett an ultimatum.
In the coming hours, if there is no breakthrough in the coalition negotiations with MK Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party and if Lapid does not back down from his exaggerated demands, the Prime Minister will begin rapid fire negotiations with the haredi parties, Likud sources said on Thursday. 
A Senior Yesh Atid source in response to the Likud ultimatum and referring to his party's insistence on obtaining the Education ministry, said the coalition crisis is not just about portfolios, it is a battle for Israel's future image and the Education ministry determines that. 
Bennett responded to the Likud ultimatum on his Facebook page saying,"My friends in the Likud: Forget about it. It will not work this way. There are differences and dialogue and compromise are necessary."
Recall the following from earlier today:
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. 
I should have added a fourth scenario: The 57 MK scenario.

And while Naftali Bennett is putting on a brave face in sticking by Lapid, I think that if there are new elections, he'd lose a lot of votes from national religious voters who aren't enamored with Yair Lapid, and if the Left won that new election, Bennett may as well retire from politics. If they don't reach an agreement, and Netanyahu goes to the 57 MK scenario, I'd bet on the Haredim being willing to do a deal on almost any terms that preserve the yeshivas' status, and that Bennett would have no choice but to go into that coalition.


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