The first day of coalition talks ended Thursday evening without any of the parties shaking hands on a deal, but cautious optimism from most. The exceptions were the Jewish Home party, which expressed frustration at not being given more attention from Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, and the Kulanu party, which cancelled its session.
By evening, Likud representatives had met with their counterparts from Jewish Home, Yisrael Beytenu, United Torah Judaism, and Shas. Netanyahu also met personally with leader of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett but the two men parted without reaching any agreement amid claims from Bennett that his party was being treated poorly in the talks and might be headed for opposition.
Netanyahu was formally charged by President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday with the task of forming a government after his Likud party won 30 seats in the March 17 elections and 67 MKs recommended him as the next prime minister; he has four weeks to complete the task, with a possible two-week extension if needed.
According to Ynet, sources in the Jewish Home party, which won eight seats, said they are concerned Netanyahu will hold out on bringing them into a coalition for as long as he can – a move the prime minister appeared to make when forming the previous government in 2013 – while trying to reach a majority in the parliament without them.
Bennett cited rumors that the Likud head plans to approach Zionist Union and its 24 seats in the hope of forming a unity government. Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog has ruled out the idea.
Bennett’s statements, made in a post to his Facebook page, reflected friction between the two right-wing parties over Bennett’s demand for the defense minister’s job and other senior positions in the next coalition – demands Likud is disinclined to meet.
By contrast, MK Ze’ev Elkin from the Likud described a meeting with representatives of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party as being conducted in a “friendly atmosphere.”
“These are two parties that know how to work together,” Elkin said. “There are a few topics that came up. Some of them we see in the same way and some of them require checking and looking into, including legal aspects.” Read more at The Times of Israel.