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Bayit Yehudi 'will be Netanyahu's First Coalition Partner'

Report: religious Zionist party will have first picks of cabinet portfolios, Knesset committees.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 2/12/2013, 9:14 AM

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Bayit Yehudi will be the first party to sign an agreement on joining the ruling coalition being assembled by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, according to a report in Yisrael Hayom, a daily newspaper which is considered to be close to the Prime Minister.

Netanyahu met with Bayit Yehudi boss Naftali Bennett Monday and the two men are expected to meet again later this week.

A senior source in the coalition negotiations team explained that the offer to make Bayit Yehudi the first party to join the coalition is very meaningful because Bennett will have the choice of important portfolios for his party to hold. He will be able to pick between the Industry, Trade and Labor portfolio, National Infrastructures, Transportation and Environment, Protection of the Environment, and other portfolios.

In addition, Bennett will receive 'first dibs' on important Knesset committees including the Finance Committee.

Bennett can also be the first to draft the coalition's basic agenda guidelines on economic and diplomatic matters.

There is still uncertainty about personal tension between Naftali Bennett and Netanyahu, which apparently goes back to the time when Bennett serve as Netanyahu's chief of staff in 2006-8. The tactical pact between Bennett and Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid is also causing some heartburn in the Likud / Yisrael Beytenu's negotiating team, as it was meant to do.

The negotiating teams of Likud / Yisrael Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi will meet Tuesday for continued negotiations.

Sources in Likud expressed cautious optimism regarding a partnership with Bayit Yehudi. "It is a matter of trust; we need to see how trust between them can be restored," one such source told Channel 10 news. The source noted that Avigdor Lieberman was also "an enemy" of Netanyahu's at one point, when he formed his own party after serving as Netanyahu's chief of staff in the 90's. "[Ehud] Barak ran against him for prime minister and defeated him [in 1999], and we saw how well they cooperated. If Netanyahu was able to overcome his animosity toward both of them, there is no reason why he can't do the same with Bennett."

Sources close to Bennett said that Bayit Yehudi is the right party for bridging the gaps between the hareidim and Yesh Atid on hareidi enlistment, "because of our familiarity with both the military world and the Torah world."