Binyamin Netanyahu speaks with Yaakov Litzman
Binyamin Netanyahu speaks with Yaakov LitzmanFLASH90

As negotiations begin for the formation of the 35th Government of Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is warning that haredi lawmakers are making “excessive demands” which cannot be realistically met, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday morning.

This week, faction leaders met with the Likud’s negotiating team, kicking off talks towards the formation of the next government.

With Netanyahu expected to form a narrow coalition government with 65 MKs from the six right-wing and religious factions – Likud, Kulanu, Yisrael Beytenu, Union of Right-Wing Parties, Shas, and United Torah Judaism – each potential coalition partner, with the exception of Kulanu, will be necessary for reaching the 61-MK minimum for a majority government.

That has emboldened faction leaders to press the Likud for major concessions, either on the future government’s agenda or with regard to the distribution of ministries.

The Union of Right-Wing Parties, which won just five seats, compared to the eight seats its member factions won in 2015, is pushing to retain the Education and Justice ministries – while also demanding that the government include annexation of some Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria in the coalition’s agenda. During the previous Knesset, the party also held the Agriculture Ministry – but is now seeking the Housing Ministry.

Kulanu, which plummeted from 10 to four seats, has asked to retain the powerful Finance Ministry, while Yisrael Beytenu has demanded it return to the Defense Ministry, which party chairman Avidgor Liberman left last November.

But the most greatest demands have been levelled by the two haredi factions – Shas and United Torah Judaism – which have called for significantly more influence in the next government, demanding a total of seven ministries between the two parties, compared to just three held by the two factions in the previous term.

Shas, which rose from seven seats to eight, has requested three ministries and a deputy minister, while UTJ, which rose from six seats to eight, has called for a total of four ministries – though in keeping with the party’s policy of not officially accepting ministerial positions, its representatives would serve as deputy ministers.

According to Israel Hayom, Prime Minister Netanyahu has balked at the demands of the two haredi factions, telling his inner circle that the terms offered by the two parties were excessive.

The two parties have also, according to Kikar Hashabbat, demanded a deputy minister for Shas and control of a number of powerful Knesset committees, including the finance committee (currently held by UTJ), and the constitution and law committee (currently held by the Jewish Home).