Speaking Thursday morning, Likud Knesset faction leader MK Ze'ev Elkin said that the formation of a government at this point was in the hands of Yair Lapid -and that a deal could be signed including his Yesh Atid party in the coalition immediately, if he were to give up his demand to be Foreign Minister.
“If he were to give up the idea of being Foreign Minister and agree to take the job of Finance Minister, we could sign a deal today,” Elkin said in an interview on Army Radio. “As someone who ran his campaign on economic issues and constantly asked 'where is the money,' it is very strange that Lapid would decide that he would be seeking 'the money' abroad. The Finance Ministry is where 'the money' is, so it would seem natural for him to take that position.”
According to reports, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has promised to return Avigdor Lieberman to the position of Foreign Minister, if and when he emerges unscathed from his corruption trial next month.
Lapid, for his part, denies that it is a dispute as to which ministry he is awarded that is holding up the deal – and accused the Likud of cynicism for trying to spin the issue as such. “For two days they have been claiming that we are arguing over ministries, with the Likud claiming that Naftali Bennett and I are setting 'ultimatums' as our price for entering the coalition.
“This is incorrect, and it's unworthy for the Likud to act in such a manner,” Lapid wrote on his Facebook page. The reason he has refused to join so far, he wrote, is because of the Likud's insistence on adding “make-work” ministry jobs to satisfy the political ambitions of members of his party and Yisrael Beiteinu. Lapid has demanded that the government be limited to no more than 20 ministers, instead of the 33 in the current government.
“The argument is not about the ministries, but about the nature of the government,” Lapid wrote. “We want answers regarding the program to draft Hareidi yeshiva students. We want answers regarding the oversized government that the Prime Minister wants that will waste hundreds of millions of shekels. We want answers regarding our plan to lower the cost of housing, to ensure that education will not be harmed, and others. I promised change to my voters.
“It seems as if some people have not come to understand that things are different, that the era of 'political spin' and leaks is over, and that the public wants a clean political system that deals with the real issues,” Lapid wrote.