While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has shown reluctance to start serious coalition negotiations with Naftali Bennett of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, coalition-partner-to-be Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid may push him in that direction. Lapid reportedly prefers the Jewish Home to complete a Likud-Yesh Atid coalition.
Lapid and Netanyahu met Thursday night. According to Channel 10, Lapid said that he has not completely ruled out a coalition with the hareidi parties Shas and Yahadut Hatorah (Gimmel), but that he would rather join with the Jewish Home.
The religious-Zionist Jewish Home party is much closer to Lapid’s ideology on the topic of IDF enlistment for hareidi men. Shas has indicted willingness to be flexible on the subject in light of the elections results, but Gimmel continues to insist that hareidi men be allowed to remain in yeshiva full-time rather than serving in the military.
A coalition that includes Shas and Gimmel while excluding the Jewish Home would leave the government limited in its ability to change enlistment laws.
Bayit Yehudi is also more likely to support economic policies that would benefit the middle class - a major part of Lapid's platform. Hareidi parties prefer to direct benefits to poorer segments of society, particularly to those with large families.
However, Shas and Gimmel are considered more likely to go along with Lapid on diplomacy. Lapid has called on the government to do more to bring the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table.
Jewish Home MK Uri Ariel told Army Radio (Galei Tzahal) that the diplomatic issue may not be a sticking point. The Jewish Home party, too, wants to talk to the PA, he said.
“We can handle Lapid’s demand for peace talks with the Palestinians,” he said. “Peace is usually made through negotiations with enemies.”
“The question is the content of the peace [agreement],” he added. “Obviously, everyone has opinions on that. We will discuss the matter and see if we can reach an agreement.”
“We won’t give any price to join the government,” he noted. “We know what it is to sit in the opposition.”
The topic of negotiations may not be relevant: Lapid has called to talk to the PA but without freezing construction in Israeli “blocs” in Judea and Samaria, while PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas says he will not meet for negotiations unless Israelis stop building new homes everywhere in the Judea and Samaria region, blocs included.
The “settlement blocs” are majority-Israeli regions of Judea and Samaria. They are home to the majority of the more than 340,000 Israelis living in the area. In past negotiations with the PA, including talks with Abbas, it has been decided that the “blocs” will remain part of Israel if the PA creates a new Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.