Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett revealed Tuesday that Binyamin Netanyahu has not begun coalition negotiations with Jewish Home, despite pre-election pledges that the religious-Zionist party would be first in line to join a Likud-led government.
"The negotiations haven't really started, when they start we we hold them quietly and with responsibility," Bennett told an interviewer for the Knesset Channel.
When asked how the coalition negotiations this time differ to last time's talks - in which Jewish Home was nearly left out of the Likud-led coalition altogether until it forged a temporary pact with Yesh Atid - Bennett answered: "I don't know, because the negotiations haven't really started. When it begins, I will know better."
Pressed by his interviewer to elaborate, he added: "The practical negotiations didn't start yet."
"I don't know."
During the last stretch of election campaigning in March, Netanyahu insisted on numerous occasions that Jewish Home was "guaranteed" to be included in his government, as the Likud's most "natural partner."
But Jewish Home party officials warned the comments were merely a ploy as part of Netanyahu's attempts to eat into Jewish Home's religious-Zionist voter base. Indeed, as polls showed Likud trailing to the left-wing Zionist Union by an ever-widening gap, the prime minister appeal repeatedly to nationalist voters to abandon their ideologically-preferred parties for Likud to fend-off the prospects of a left-wing-led government.
Bennett himself appealed to would-be Jewish Home voters to ignore the PM's attempts to woo them, and warned a mass movement of Jewish Home voters to the Likud - while enabling Likud to handily defeat the left-wing Zionist Union - would result in a weakened position for the party and the religious-Zionist community in general.
Ultimately, however, many voters did indeed heed the PM's calls - with Jewish Home shrinking by four seats to just eight as a result.