Zero hour ultimatum
Bennett Demands: Justice Ministry or Opposition

Bennett in last minute demand that Shaked be made justice minister; Likud sources say 'lust for portfolios canceling right-wing govt.'

Ido Ben-Porat, Ari Yashar,

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

As coalition talks go down to the wire ahead of a Wednesday deadline, Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett delivered an ultimatum to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, demanding that MK Ayelet Shaked of his party be named justice minister.

If the demand is not met, Bennett threatened to go to the Opposition, leaving Likud short of the required 61 MKs needed to create a coalition majority.

Bennett made an additional demand according to Channel 2, asking that Shaked be inducted as justice minister as soon as next week out of an apparent concern that the law may be changed to increase the number of ministers beyond the current limitation of 18.

Likud had already reportedly agreed to Shaked being named as culture and sport minister as part of a proposed coalition agreement, but Jewish Home is apparently trying to press for additional portfolios.

Likud tried throughout the day on Tuesday to contact Bennett after the minister went "under the radar" and switched his cell phone to airplane mode.

The reason for Bennett's last minute cutting off of contact is his anger that the haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism were given control of the Religious Affairs Ministry and the rabbinical courts in the coalition deals they signed.

Regarding the justice ministry, reports have indicated that after Avigdor Liberman announced his Yisrael Beytenu party will not join the coalition, Likud responded to Bennett's demand for the foreign portfolio by offering him to be the justice minister instead of the education minister as had been agreed.

"Lust for portfolios harming the right-wing"

Sources close to Netanyahu voiced their opposition to Bennett's last minute demands.

"We won't give the justice portfolio," they said. "The right-wing will never forgive Bennett if he knocks over a right-wing government due to a lust for portfolios."

The remark refers to appraisals that Netanyahu may form a unity government with the leftist Zionist Union party comprised of Labor and Hatnua if Jewish Home does not sign a coalition deal with it.

Netanyahu has until Wednesday night to inform President Reuven Rivlin if he was able to form a coalition or not, and if he was successful, he will have a week to swear in the next coalition government.

Bennett's demand comes after Dani Dayan, the former head of the Yesha Council and a candidate on the Jewish Home list who removed his candidacy after getting an unrealistic spot in primaries, urged the party to sign a coalition deal with Likud on Tuesday.

"In the situation we've encountered today there's nothing to be done but to regain one's composure, to drink a glass of water, and to sign on the coalition agreement," Dayan said of Jewish Home in an interview on Army Radio.

Dayan criticized Jewish Home for waiting until the last minute to sign a coalition deal in an attempt to squeeze out additional portfolios for its members.

"It cannot be that Jewish Home makes the establishment of the government fail," he said.

On his Twitter account, Dayan wrote later, "I thank G-d that I wasn't selected there (in Jewish Home primaries - ed.) and I don't have to in these very days stand in the dilemma between my conscience and my faction."








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