With less than a week to go before he is required to present a new government, or let opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog try, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expressing frustration with potential coalition partners Aryeh Deri and Naftali Bennett. Likud sources said that Netanyahu is accusing the two of trying to “squeeze” him for concessions he cannot make; if this is how the government acts even before it is formed, the sources said, Netanyahu feels he would be better off forming a unity government with Zionist Union.
Netanyahu is especially upset with Deri, who, the sources said, “is wheeling and dealing on every detail, without any regard for what happened in the last election,” when Shas's Knesset representation dropped by a third. While the gap between the Likud and Jewish Home is not as big as it is with Shas, Netanyahu is not optimistic that he will be able to satisfy either party's demands – and is concerned over what will occur in the coming years, fearing that either party will threaten to walk out of the coalition if it doesn't get its way.
And the option of a unity government is not a mere threat, the source said; it is a more realistic possibility than ever. “Netanyahu would rather bring in Herzog without Tzipi Livni, but Herzog is not prepared to do this,” the source said. “But under the circumstances, Netanyahu is beginning to feel that he has no choice – and that bringing Livni is the lesser of two evils.”
According to the source, Netanyahu is likely to begin official negotiations with Labor after he finishes his deals with United Torah Jewry and Kulanu – deals that are set to be closed within hours, if not days. Once those agreements are signed, Netanyahu will turn his full attention to a last-gasp attempt to finish off his deals with Shas and Jewish Home – and if he cannot, the Prime Minister will seek to draw Zionist Union into the government.
Speaking on Army Radio Wednesday, Likud MK Ayoub Kara said that he had had a long talk with Herzog in recent days. Despite his public comments, Kara said, “he does not at all rule out a unity government. I would do anything to bring such a government about, because the country really needs it.”