Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett expressed his disappointment and frustration with the coalition negotiation process on Wednesday, telling party members that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was “giving us the runaround” in the talks.
“Netanyahu thinks we are suckers and that he can push us around,” Bennett told party activists at an event Wednesday night. “He thinks that we are 'in his pocket,' that he can do whatever he wants to us. All the other parties are already set in his 'registry' and know what their role is going to be, except for us.”
Likud officials have been discussing government posts with potential coalition partners for over a week, and according to reports, the parties – Kulanu, United Torah Jewry, Shas, and Yisrael Beyteynu – are not making it easy for Netanyahu to form a government.
On Wednesday, Kulanu said in a statement hat negotiators had discussed giving the party the Finance, Housing, and Environmental ministries, along with the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee, and control of the Israel Lands Administration, and the National Planning Commission.
Although Netanyahu said both before and after the elections that he was planning on setting up a right-wing coalition with the Likud's “natural partners,” such as Jewish Home and the haredi parties, negotiations with all these, as well as with Kulanu party and Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu, has proven more difficult than anticipated.
Among the issues is the seemingly irreconcilable demand by both United Torah Judaism and Kulanu for chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee. UTJ has “traditionally” held the post in recent governments, while Kahlon claims that without the committee, he will not be able to carry out reforms as Finance Minister. Also interested in the post is Jewish Home, which has current control of the Committee.
Liberman, meanwhile, is insisting on the Foreign Ministry, while Shas wants the Religious Affairs portfolio, which Jewish Home held in the last government.
The situation is unacceptable, said Bennett, and especially galling because of the loyalty to Likud of Jewish Home voters. “In two meetings Netanyahu has not offered me anything. If he is trying to put together a unity government with Labor, then that is apparently what will happen.”