Yair Lapid
Yair LapidIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The Likud Beytenu is close to signing a coalition agreement with the Yesh Atid party, sources in both parties told Army Radio on Thursday evening.

According to the sources, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid has agreed to give up his demand to be appointed to the position of Foreign Minister, which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is saving for Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman until the end of his trial.

Instead, the report said, Lapid will be appointed to the position of Interior Minister, replacing Shas’s Eli Yishai.

A compromise has also been reached on Lapid’s demand that the number of ministers in the Cabinet be reduced in order to save costs, the report said. The new Cabinet will include 23 ministers, more than the 18 Lapid had demanded, but less than the Likud’s demand of 25 or more.

Army Radio also reported that it has been agreed between the sides that Lapid and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett’s outline for hareidi enlistment will be the one that is implemented.

The proposal will impose a quota on the number of yeshiva students who are exempt from army service. However, instead of 400 exemptions as Lapid had previously demanded, the quota will be extended to 1,500 to 2,000 students.

Minister of Internal Security Yitzchak Aharonovitch said earlier on Thursday that he believed Netanyahu will have assembled a majority coalition by next week.

Aharonovitch rejected suggestions that Netanyahu would offer Lapid the Foreign Ministry. Netanyahu will keep his promise to reserve that ministry for Lieberman, he said.