Coalition negotiations began in earnest Sunday, after President Shimon Peres officially conferred on Binyamin Netanyahu the job of building a new coalition after the elections last month. On Sunday, negotiating teams from the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu held initial meetings with delegations from Yesh Atid, Jewish Home, and Shas.
Political analysts said that the negotiations were likely to be tough, as Netanyahu has taken upon himself an almost impossible task – forging a government in which Yesh Atid is able to agree on a basic governing plan with hareidi parties Shas and United Torah Jewry. Yesh Atid is demanding a maximal plan to draft hareidi yeshiva students, while the hareidi parties are insisting that a massive draft will be a failure.
Speaking in a radio interview prior to the meeting, Shas MK Ariel Attias said that Shas was interested in “unifying the nation and ensuring that all people, secular, religious and Hareidi, are able to coexist.” Attias said that it was clear to everyone that forcing hareidim to join the army would not work, and that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who has been insisting on a plan that would leave only some 400 top yeshiva students to their studies, with the rest being drafted, realized that his plan would not succeed.
“It appears that the reason he is insisting on this is to keep Shas out of the coalition,” Attias said. Whether or not he succeeded was up to Netanyahu, who was selected to form the government. “From what you hear in the media it would seem that Lapid is Prime Minister,” Attias said on Voice of Israel public radio. “He is the one insisting on how many or few ministers there should be, what the government's policies should be, and who should be admitted to sit in the government.
“With all due respect to Lapid, who got 19 seats based on approximately 550,000 votes, the Hareidi parties got 18 seats, with almost as many votes,” Attias added. “We have an agenda at least as legitimate, if not more so, as his.” Shas has 11 seats in the new Knesset, while UTJ has 7.