After Hatnuah, Shas likely to be next to join Bibi’s coalition

Members of Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu suggested that Netanyahu may try to build a coalition of 57 MKS – including Shas, United Torah Judaism, Kadima & Hatnuah and then present Naftali Bennett with an ultimatum.


Likud officials in charge of coalition negotiations said that Hatnuah Chairman Tzipi Livni‘s consent to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government was the “first domino” to fall, believing that more parties would now follow.

Yishai, Netanyahu, and Bennett

Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett. – Photo by Archive

Shas and Kadima are expected to join the coalition quickly, but the Likud officials also expect that Livni’s move will apply pressure on Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi, as well.

The officials that said Yesh Atid Chairman Naftali Bennett received a “generous offer” regarding the coalition last week.

The officials also said Livni’s appointment to head the peace negotiations should not worry the national Zionist Bennett, since any agreement would be subject to approval by the whole government, the Knesset, and even subject to a referendum.

Some members of Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu speculated on Tuesday that Netanyahu may try to build a coalition of 57 MKS – including Shas, United Torah Judaism, Hatnuah and Kadima – and then present Habayit Hayehudi an ultimatum: Either join the government or go to elections. They predicted Bennett would come crawling to Netanyahu, adding that Livni has severely weakened the bargaining positions of both Bennett and Lapid.

Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi, meanwhile, were surprised Livni’s decision to be the first party to sign a coalition agreement. Yesh Atid leaders refused to comment on Livni’s move, while sources in Habayit Hayehudi criticized Netanyahu over the matter.

“Handing responsibility for negotiations to an individual who had already negotiated the division of Jerusalem and was responsible for the disengagement plan will make the coalition negotiations more difficult,” said the Habayit Hayehudi sources.

Shas is apparently next in line to join the coalition. Sources in the Shas coalition negotiations told Haaretz that in the past 48 hours there has been significant progress in talks with the Likud team, but there are still substantial gaps, especially concerning Prof. Eugene Kandel’s plan for moderate draft proposals which was adopted by Benjamin Netanyahu as a substitute for the Tal Law.

Shas officials demand that certain aspects of the plan be modified before they can join the coalition, specifically those demanding decreases in funding of Yeshivas if draft rates aren’t met.

Meanwhile, Shas leader Aryeh Deri congratulated Tzipi Livni for joining the coalition. “Israel needs a government that will unite the nation and not cause divisions or a discourse that negates any sector,” said a statement released by Deri’s office after the conversation with Livni.

The recent progress was achieved by talks being conducted in two parallel channels. Minister Ariel Attias is dealing with the replacement for the Tal Law, while Deri is discussing other matters with Prime Minister Netanyahu and MK Avigdor Leiberman.

A possible obstacle could be the position of Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, a prominent leader of the non-Hasidic Lithuanian sector of the Haredi community, who wrote Tuesdau in the Yated Ne’eman newspaper an article that completely rejects any compromise on drafting Haredi students. Shteinman’s position is binding upon United Torah Judaism but will also make it hard for Shas to adopt a different stand toward any compromise proposal.


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