Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Reuven Rivlin on Monday morning and asked him for a two-week extension to finalize the coalition negotiations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin – Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO
“We have made considerable progress in the negotiations, but more time is necessary for us to form a stable government that would meet the challenges Israel faces,” Netanyahu said in a short statement to the media following the meeting.
Rivlin said, “As the circumstances of the endorsement [for prime minister] have not changed … and after you have briefed me on the progress made and your efforts to form a coalition, I hereby afford you the 14-day extension you have requested. … I wish you the best of luck in your efforts to form a government.”
Netanyahu has yet to secure signed agreements with any of Likud’s potential coalition partners. Likud insiders said negotiations with the ruling party’s natural partners were in full swing, and predicted that agreements with Kulanu, Shas and United Torah Judaism would be signed by the end of the week.
Israel’s 34th government is likely to number 22 ministers, so as to accommodate the various parties’ demands, sources privy to the talks said Sunday, adding that the number of Likud ministers was expected to grow to 11 or 12.
Basic Law: The Government, enacted in 1968, originally limited the number of ministers to 18, but an amendment introduced by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 1999 annulled the restriction, affording the prime minister the authority to name as many ministers as necessary. Over the years, the number of ministers, deputy ministers and ministers without portfolios ballooned, and the practice has been widely criticized as imprudent government spending.
During the previous government’s term, Yesh Atid was able to pass another amendment to the Basic Law that effectively reinstated the 18-minister restriction, limited the number of deputy ministers to four, and barred the appointment of ministers without portfolios.
These restrictions mean Likud will have to pursue a legislative amendment to facilitate a 22-minister government.
With negotiations progressing rapidly, Likud sources said the ultra-Orthodox parties were striving to recapture the positions they held during the 32nd government (2009-2013). United Torah Judaism seeks to install party leaders Yakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni as deputy health minister and Knesset Finance Committee chairman respectively. Meanwhile, Shas seeks to control the interior and religious services ministries.
Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who is eyeing the religious services portfolio for his own party, threatened Sunday that “withholding the religious services portfolio from the national religious [sector] and giving it to Shas spells the end of negotiations with Habayit Hayehudi.”
Currently, negotiations with Habayit Hayehudi have seen Likud offer to let Bennett remain economy and trade minister, as well as give him the intelligence affairs portfolio.
Habayit Hayehudi No. 2, MK Uri Ariel, will likely be appointed agriculture minister and given authority over the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division, while Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked will likely be given the senior citizens affairs portfolio.
Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon will be named finance minister and given authority over the Interior Ministry’s Planning Administration. Kahlon’s No. 2, MK Yoav Galant, will be appointed construction minister, and Kulanu MK Eli Alaluf will be named environmental protection minister.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman is expected to retain his position as foreign minister.
“Until we have signed agreements [with the parties], last-minute crises could erupt, so until we have signed agreements, we don’t really have anything. It’s not over until it’s over,” a Likud source said.
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=24935