Prime Minister and Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu met with Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon for some three hours Sunday, as sources in the Likud said that the two were “close” to a coalition deal. The meeting between the two party heads was held to break through some of the issues that have apparently been holding up a deal, the sources said.
The main stumbling blocks to an agreement, the sources said, was Kahlon's insistence on being given a wide a array of “tools” that he claims he needs to bring down the cost of living, including food and housing. Already before the elections Netanyahu named Kahlon as his Finance Minister, a post the Kulanu head said was a “make or break” condition of his joining a government. Besides that, however, Kahlon also asked for a number of other portfolios, including Housing, which the sources said he is likely to get.
Another post Kahlon wanted – but will apparently not be getting – is that of leadership of the Knesset Finance Committee. The committee has the power to approve government spending, and its agenda is set by the chairman, making that individual almost as powerful as the Finance Minister. Netanyahu has reportedly told Kahlon that UTJ MK Moshe Gafni would be given that post. The post is currently chaired by Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky, who has said that his party, too, wishes to retain that post.
Another post that is hotly contested, this time by Kahlon and Shas head Aryeh Deri, is leadership of the Interior Ministry's Planning Committee. This position, too, is an extremely important one, as the head of the committee is responsible for setting the agenda on hearings for zoning and construction approval. If Deri agrees to give this position to a Kulanu MK, he is likely to be rewarded with a deputy minister's position in the Treasury, the sources said.
The sources added that the Likud has decided to keep two of the top portfolios – Foreign and Defense – for itself. Speaking earlier, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon hinted to reporters that he was likely to continue in the post. Earlier, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman complained that Netanyahu has been “dragging his feet” on talking to his Yisrael Beytenu party, and apparently was setting the stage for a unity government with Labor/Zionist Union.