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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Lapid and Bennett give Netanyahu an ultimatum?

With nine days left to form a government, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, along with Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, have given Prime Minister Netanyahu an ultimatum: Either he gives them the Foreign and Finance ministries, or they will refuse to go into his government.
The three parties together have two more MKs than Likud Beytenu, and will not join the coalition if their demands are not met. However if they receive two of the three top-tier portfolios, they will support Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for a full, four-year term, according to the source.
Netanyahu is holding the Foreign Ministry for Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman.

Those two extra seats could be significant, because they raise the possibility that if Netanyahu cannot form a government, President Shimon Peres could ask Lapid, Bennett and Mofaz to form a government instead, rather than going to new elections.

I don't believe that the three could form a government. To form a government without the Likud, you would have to take in either the Haredim or the Arabs. Lapid will not sit the Haredim. And if Bennett were to agree to sit with the Arabs, his party will be eviscerated in the next elections. There has never been an Arab party as part of Israel's governing coalition (there have been Arab MK's the coalition as members of Jewish parties, but that's different).

Might Netanyahu try again to turn to Shelly Yacimovitch and the Haredim? Well, yes, but Yacimovitch (Labor) seems unlikely to respond favorably.
Meanwhile, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said on Wednesday that there is nothing barring Netanyahu from reserving the portfolio for Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman until the trial against him is resolved.
A prime minister can hold additional portfolios at his will and even without an “arrangement,” the prime minister could give Liberman any post at any time (presuming he is found innocent in the trial against him), the attorney-general said. Weinstein added that all of the issues involved in the portfolio question were political and not legal, giving him no reason to get involved.
Further, he rejected any concern that Liberman “hovering” over the future of the Foreign Ministry would pressure ministry workers into changing their testimony against Liberman, out of concern that he might retaliate in the future.
Weinstein announced his position on the issue, in response to a request from Labor MK Merav Michaeli and OMETZ watchdog group head Aryeh Avneri to rule on the issue and demand a commitment from Netanyahu not to follow through with the alleged backroom agreement.
I'd be surprised - okay not astounded but surprised - if Labor agreed to go into a coalition where the Foreign Ministry was being held for Lieberman.

By the way, Lapid is denying that he issued an ultimatum. But JPost reporter Lahav Harkov has him figured out.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid denied Wednesday night that Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi had given Netanyahu an ultimatum over portfolios.
In a Facebook post, Lapid wrote that "it is not true and not honorable...Netanyahu is the one forming the government and neither of us would give an ultimatum to the prime minister."
Lapid has a penchant for dealing in semantics. Last week, the Yesh Atid leader said he does not boycott any person, including haredim, but that he refuses to sit in a government with Shas or UTJ.

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