MK Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), who is expected to be tapped on Sunday to form the next government, is leaving negotiations with the Religious Zionism party to last, Channel 12 News reported.
According to the channel's analyst Amit Segal, Netanyahu is hoping to force Religious Zionism's chairman, MK Bezalel Smotrich, to accept a lesser portfolio, despite the fact that his party is third-largest in the Knesset.
According to the report, Netanyahu assumes that if he signs coalition agreements with Otzma Yehudit and the haredi parties, and hands out positions within the Likud, Smotrich will not have an option other than to join the government or be blamed for bringing down the right-wing government. In such a situation, Netanyahu would be able to offer Smotrich the Education or Transportation ministries, and possibly the Justice Ministry, if he needed to. This, however, would allow Netanyahu to avoid giving Smotrich the Finance or Defense ministries, which he has already demanded.
Netanyahu aims to have the other coalition agreements signed by Monday, after which he will approach Smotrich.
Meanwhile, Shas chairman Aryeh Deri will be offered a choice of the Finance, Defense, or Interior ministries, and the party - though smaller than Smotrich's - is also expected to receive the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Negev and Galilee Ministry, and the Health Ministry, as well as possibly another ministry.
Sources close to the negotiations say that Netanyahu is trying to keep the Defense Ministry within the Likud, and that he may be forced to give Smotrich the Finance Ministry. In the meantime, it is likely that the swearing-in of the next government will not take place until next week, since Netanyahu is not likely to finish forming the government this week.
Sources in the Religious Zionism party told Kan News that Netanyahu is degrading them, and that this will not be acceptable.
"He still thinks like he used to, that Religious Zionism has a 'giant heart and a small brain,'" the sources told Kan. "Netanyahu is trying to divide and conquer with [Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar] Ben-Gvir."