Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not want the religious Zionist Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, led by Naftali Bennett, in his next coalition, Channel 10 has reported.
Netanyahu has been conducting consultations with his political partners in advance of the elections, from which he is widely expected to emerge victorious.
The reason Netanyahu does not want Bayit Yehudi in his next government, sources close to him told the television channel, is that he wants "a more centrist" government, which will include a hareidi party and at least one party from the "center," in order to avoid "the ultra-rightist image that the current coalition suffers from."
Bennett's rivals in the race for leadership of the Jewish Home had warned that he is personally disliked by Netanyahu, and that the two had had a falling out which led Bennett to end his service as Netanyahu's chief of staff prematurely several years ago. As a result, they said, the party will not sit in the next government if Bennett heads it. Bennett told Radio Kol Hai yesterday that he speaks freely to Netanyahu and likes him very much.
Even if the report regarding Netanyahu's preferences is true, however, the prime minister may not have much of a choice when it comes to letting Bennett into the coalition. The so-called "centrist" parties – Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, Tzipi Livni's party and the Labor party – are seen by many nationalists as hard-line leftist parties. In the course of forging an agreement with them, Netanyahu could find himself facing a revolt within Likud, which has elected a relatively hawkish and religious list that includes Moshe Feiglin.
In any case, the larger Bennett's party is – the more difficult it will be for Netanyahu to avoid including it in his coalition.