Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel SmotrichPhoto by Yossi Aloni/Flash90

The haredi Yated Ne'eman newspaper, which is affiliated with the Degel Hatorah faction of United Torah Judaism (UTJ), criticized MK Bezalel Somtrich's (Religious Zionism) demand to become Defense Minister in the new government.

According to the paper, "We hear about the insistence of one of the sources, who wishes to receive specifically a portfolio which is responsible for the country's functioning, either Defense or Finance, despite the fact that he represents a defined sectoral public whose perspectives on security and/or the economy are not in line with the needs of the general public of the State of Israel, and this even though he has no more than seven Knesset members behind him, and it is doubtful if he would even have those, had he run independently."

The paper compared Smotrich to former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who through "extortion" became prime minister, despite the fact that his party had just six Knesset seats.

"We are again getting into the usual dizzying cycle of the proud poor, of the type we saw in the last round, in which they demanded, with unending political fraudulence, with just six Knesset seats, the prime ministerhood with equal authority, and not a drop less," the paper added.

"In the meantime, Prime Minister-designate, [MK] Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) is trying to solve the crisis with the Religious Zionism party chairman Bezalel Smotrich regarding the portfolios of Defense and Finance."

On Monday, Netanyahu held a lengthy meeting with Shas chief Aryeh Deri, attempting to convince him to give up the Finance Ministry and instead become Defense Minister. Thus far, Deri has not given Netanyahu a final answer on the matter.

Sources close to Smotrich have said that he prefers the Finance Ministry to the Defense Ministry. As of now, Netanyahu and Smotrich are not communicating, and have not met since last Wednesday.

On Tuesday, prior to a party meeting, Smotrich will hold a press conference - his first since the elections.