While MK Ophir Pines (Labor) has said that he feels that the trump card in Likud’s forming a coalition lies in the hands of Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), National Union party chairman Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh) has tossed another spanner into the stacked deck.
Katz stated that the HaBayit HaYehudi party (Jewish Home) and the Ichud Leumi (National Union) agree on the Cabinet posts in Housing and Education for their parties. In an interview with Voice of Israel government radio, Katz added that Netanyahu is not ensured a majority of 61 parliamentarians without the support of the two parties. He noted that their positions are coordinated, notwithstanding their separate negotiations with Likud. Jewish Home chairman Prof. Hershkowitz told Voice of Israel that the two parties have many joint positions.
Assuming that only Israel Our Home, Shas, and United Torah Judaism will join Likud’s narrow nationalist/religious coalition, the Likud will still have a combined tally of 58 seats, three seats short of the magic “61” number. The combined power of Ichud Leumi (4 seats) and Jewish Home (3 seats) allows extra leverage in negotiating for favorable terms with a Likud-led coalition.
Katz said Thursday morning that his meeting a day earlier with Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu was “positive and relevant.” He added that he hopes that by next week the government coalition will be formed with all nationalistic parties – Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Ichud Leumi, and Jewish Home.
The Ichud Leumi chairman asked for the Ministry of Housing and Construction and demanded authority over the Land Authority and the Division of Settlements, which are currently under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture. Katz also asked that the Education Ministry portfolio be given to Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, head of Jewish Home.
Knesset Member David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) announced that it is possible that the signing of a coalition agreement with Likud will take place next week, and not on Thursday, as initially planned. He stated that his party is not currently negotiating ministerial posts, but rather the coalition guidelines.