Coalition Talks Continue into the Night
The three-way meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett ended shortly before midnight on Sunday.
The late night meeting was also attended by Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman.
Reports in Israel’s media outlets after the meeting indicated that progress had been made on the issue of hareidi enlistment to the military, which remains the central sticking point in the negotiations.
Officials in the Bayit Yehudi told Channel 10 News the meeting was “a meeting of persuasion meant to bring the parties closer to signing a coalition agreement.”
The reports indicated that after the three leaders left, the three parties’ negotiators began a marathon meeting into the night, so an agreement can be reached by early morning.
According to a report on Channel 2 News, during Sunday evening’s meeting the three leaders also discussed the issue of ministerial portfolios. The Likud/Yisrael Beytenu has requested that Gideon Sa'ar continue to serve as Minister of Education, while Yesh Atid requested that MK Rabbi Shai Piron be appointed to that position. Both parties also want the Interior Ministry, the report said, but that portfolio will likely go to Yesh Atid.
Negotiating teams for Likud/Yisrael Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi met in Ramat Gan Sunday afternoon, but talks reached a dead end after a short time.
Likud sources had said that Yesh Atid had taken back its agreement to matters that had already been finalized. "In the morning, we reached an agreed outline for equality in [military] service with Yesh Atid, and we reached an agreed formulation, but in the afternoon they went back on everything that had been agreed upon regarding the outline."
The Likud/Yisrael Beytenu sources said that Yesh Atid's new outline is not acceptable to Bayit Yehudi because it harms religious-Zionist and hareidi yeshivas. That is the reason why Netanyahu called Lapid and Bennett to meet with him in his Jerusalem bureau.
Meanwhile, reported Channel 2, it was Bennett who over the weekend bridged the gaps between Netanyahu and Lapid over the position of Foreign Minister. The report said that on Thursday, Bennett mediated between the two men after Lapid demanded the Foreign Ministry as a condition for entering the coalition.
Finally, thanks to Bennett’s intervention, Lapid agreed to give up the Foreign Ministry in favor of the Finance Ministry, allowing Netanyahu to keep his promise to Lieberman that the Foreign Ministry will be saved for him pending the end of his legal proceedings.