Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has two weeks left to build a coalition – and a roadblock between the hareidi-religious parties and the centrist bloc with whom he needs to make an agreement.
The prime minister was formally granted a two-week extension by President Shimon Peres on Saturday night to form a coalition, after failing to accomplish the task in the first four weeks following elections.
After referring to “boycotts” being carried out by the centrist Yesh Atid (There's a Future) - Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) mini-coalition against the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) - Shas bloc, Netanyahu will once again try to break the log jam Sunday afternoon after the regular Sunday cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu has strongly criticized Bayit Yehudi for its unwillingness to negotiate separately from Yesh Atid, and both for their unwillingness to sit together with the hareidi-religious parties in a coalition government.
MK Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) responded to the criticism, demanding an explanation for Netanyahu’s pact with former Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni, head of the six-seat Hatnuah party, and pointing out that was “even more peculiar.” The Likud has only managed to build a pact with Livni -- a former adversary -- to date.
Bennett, meanwhile, commented that Netanyahu had “boycotted” his party immediately following the Knesset elections, causing a significant part of the problems in the first place. “In the days following the elections, the Likud refused to speak with Bayit Yehudi,” Bennett wrote in a post on his Facebook page. “They boycotted us... We knew that if we sat quietly we would be in the opposition. I sat with Yair Lapid and we a greed that Yesh Atid would not join the government without Bayit Yehudi, and Bayit Yehudi would not join the government without Yesh Atid,” he stated bluntly.
At 12:45 p.m., the prime minister is scheduled to meet with Sephardic Shas party leaders Eli Yishai, Aryeh Deri and Ariel Atias to discuss compromises that could soften the stance of Yesh Atid – which refuses to sit in the same coalition with Shas.
Following the meeting with Shas, Netanyahu is slated to head to one with Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, scheduled at 3:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Yishai slammed Bennett for his party’s pact: Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi have said they will not sit in a coalition with UTJ and Shas. “HaBayit HaYehudi has sold out its soul, its beliefs and the future of the settlement enterprise,” Yishai said in a statement to reporters. “Bennett sacrificed it at the altar of hatred.”
UTJ MK Moshe Gafni also had harsh criticism for Bennett in a Hebrew-language interview Sunday morning broadcast on Army Radio (Galei Tzahal). “Naftali Bennett says, ‘There can be no government without Yair Lapid, and I am going with him.’ That means he is saying the hareidi parties will not be in the coalition,” Gafni said. “Naftali Bennett and the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) are shooting an arrow through out hearts, doing things that should not be done since the State was established,” he declared.