With eight days to go until elections, rumors about the political makeup of the next coalition government have begun to take form. Likud insiders on Monday have been quoted as saying that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to redefine his "natural partners" after the upcoming election, shifting from a nationalist government to a more leftist one.
The Ma'ariv newspaper quoted senior Likud members as saying that because of a need to focus on issues such as the economy and due to pressure that is expected to come from US President Barack Obama in regards to the peace process, Netanyahu is expected to shift his coalition more towards the center-left in an effort to build as broad a coalition as possible.
"Netanyahu would prefer to give up the religious parties, especially in light of the economic policy he would like to implement, which will include very severe cuts," said the Likud insiders. "With the ultra-Orthodox, he won't be able to reach an agreement."
According to the report, with a budget deficit of NIS 39 billion in 2012 and expected cuts of NIS 14 billion in 2013, the main issue in the upcoming Knesset will quickly shift to the economy and Netanyahu believes a coalition comprised of Yair Lapid, Tzipi Livni, and even Shaul Mofaz, assuming his Kadima party passes the threshold and gets seats in the next Knesset, will be best equipped to handle the tough economic policies that will need to be implemented.
"They are the first circle", explained the party officials. "In the second circle, and at a much reduced price, he will also offer the ultra-Orthodox and Naftali Bennett to join. But it will be at a funny cost, in a way that will make it clear to them that he is not really interested in them."
According to the report, Netanyahu fears that Jewish Home's Naftali Bennett will prevent him from making certain political moves in regard to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and building in Judea and Samaria.
Likud officials reportedly believe that the Prime Minister will ask the newly created center parties to join his coalition only if he receives more than 35 seats -- a very likely possibility according to recent poll predictions.
Likud officials estimated that the chance that Livni, Lapid and Mofaz will be incorporated into Netanyahu's coalition is "99 percent."
Shas leader Aryeh Deri is also concerned that the government might shift towards the left. Fearing his party would be left out of the coalition, Deri recently called on the PM on "Meet the Press," urging him to “pick up the phone and let’s negotiate right now a coalition government” together.
Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) responded to the rumors, saying, "We have been saying this for weeks. Like the last time when the public chose Netanyahu and got (Ehud) Barak, so too this time whoever chooses Netanyahu will get a leftist government…Only Jewish home is large enough to bring about a nationalist government which will stop the Palestinian state that Likud is planning."
All reports regarding Netanyahu's intentions should be taken with a grain of salt, since they could serve various interests and be pure 'spin.' For instance, a rumor such as the above could serve to "lower the price" of Shas and Bayit Yehudi in coalition negotiations. It could also serve the purpose of Netanyahu's rivals in the press, who would like to see him weakened even if it means a stronger Bayit Yehudi.