Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu prefers to keep Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) out of the coalition, a senior Likud official told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that Netanyahu has indicated in private conversations he would prefer to form a coalition with Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid (Future) party, Tzipi Livni's Hatnua and even with the Labor party headed by Shelly Yechimovich, though she has publicly stated she would not join a Netanyahu-led government.
According to the official, "Netanyahu fears a strong Bennett", referring to Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, because his party will make it difficult for him to make diplomatic moves in terms of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
"There are differences between Netanyahu and Bennett and these differences may affect Netanyahu's actions when forming the coalition," the source said.
The remarks echo a report on Channel 10 News on Tuesday evening, according to which Likud has sent Lapid a message which states that Netanyahu would prefer him Lapid in the coalition over the Jewish Home.
On Monday, Likud insiders were quoted as saying that 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 U.S. 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 hareidim, he won't be able to reach an agreement."
On Saturday, Aryeh Deri, one of the three leaders of the Shas party, accused Netanyahu of preferring a coalition with parties from the left rather than with Shas.
"Why is Netanyahu not prepared to declare that Shas is his natural coalition partner?" Deri said in an interview on Channel 2's "Meet the Press". "For the past two-three months I have been shouting from every stage that whoever votes Shas will get us and Netanyahu as Prime Minister. And yet I hear the Likud leaders, including Netanyahu itself, claiming that there is a hareidi party negotiating with the left. We know all these spins."
Meanwhile on Tuesday, the center-left parties continued to exchange verbal blows. Yechimovich told Army Radio that "Tzipi Livni's contribution to the peace process is not only zero, but actually a real sabotage in my attempt to replace Netanyahu."
Yechimovich was responding to comments made by Livni, who earlier held a press conference in which she said that "Yechimovich has given up. She announced that she is on her way to the opposition, that any political negotiations and any security-political issues do not interest her. She does not understand them."
Yechimovich said in response, "Not only do I understand the political issues, I have a very structured world view and anything I believe in, as soon as I get to a position of power, I know to translate it into action. Just as for seven years, as a member of the Knesset, I worked to legislate 47 laws that reflect my economic and social world view, so will I be able to translate my political outlook into action when in a position of power, unlike Livni."