As coalition talks with the Yesh Atid party hit a snag, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly met on Tuesday night with MK Eli Yishai, one of the leaders of the Shas party.
Shas sources who informed Channel 2 News of the meeting between the two, noted that it was not the first time the two men have met in the past 24 hours.
The hareidi parties, long considered to be the Likud’s natural coalition partners, have so far been left out of the new coalition, mainly due to Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid’s demand to implement a strict program to enlist hareidi yeshiva students into the IDF.
Lapid has also outright rejected the hareidim, saying that if he is photographed alongside Shas ministers, “I will have ended my political career.”
However, while the Likud has made many concessions to Lapid, who leads the Knesset’s second largest party with 19 seats, he has continuously made additional demands, frustrating Netanyahu, whose time to present a government is running out.
Likud/Yisrael Beytenu sources said on Tuesday evening that Netanyahu has made major concessions to Lapid's demands, such as agreeing to a government of only 20 ministers, but when Netanyahu asked Lapid to compromise, the latter refused.
The main bone of contention between Netanyahu and Lapid – and the reason a coalition agreement has not yet been signed – is Lapid's insistence that the Education Ministry be given to his party exclusively.
Lapid is said to have former educator Rabbi Shai Piron, number two on the Yesh Atid list, in mind for the job. However, Netanyahu wants Gideon Sa'ar, current Education Minister, to remain at the post. Sa'ar was considered a good minister, who effected positive changes in the school system in cooperation with the teachers’ unions.
Netanyahu has offered to rotate the Education Ministry between Sa'ar and Yesh Atid, but Lapid has rejected this deal. The report added that Netanyahu is determined not to concede on this point – but because he must present a government by the weekend, the Prime Minister is looking at options.
On Saturday night, Yishai said that the 2013 elections will be remembered as the ones in which an entire sector of Israeli society was boycotted.
Yishai pointed a finger at Lapid but also at Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett because of the pact he made with Lapid that the two would enter the coalition together.
On Sunday another of Shas’s leaders, MK Aryeh Deri, said that Netanyahu has the ultimate responsibility for keeping hareidi political parties out of the government.
Deri wrote on his Facebook page that Netanyahu “will not be able to claim that his hands are clean in this matter.”