Coalition talks continue apace, with the main focus now on how Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu attempts to square the circle between a centrist party whose main platform is integrating Israel’s chareidi sector into the army and workforce, and the chareidi political parties who are fighting tooth and nail against any change in the status quo.
Amid the tension between Netanyahu and Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, following the latter’s statements concerning his wish to occupy the prime minister’s seat in a year and a half should he be left out of the opposition, the two met again on Thursday, face to face. Netanyahu and Lapid will try to bridge the gaps between them and examine the possibility of Yesh Atid entering the coalition, together with the Shas party – an ideal solution according to the prime minister’s associates.
Netanyahu is expected to tell Lapid that he sees the chareidi parties as partners in his government and that if Lapid wants to join the government, he will have to make his stance more flexible, particularly on the issue of “sharing the burden” (recruiting chareidim into the Israel Defense Forces and into the workforce). According to a source close to the coalition talks, Netanyahu would like to form as broad-based a government as possible – one that includes Lapid, Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz from the Center-Left of the political spectrum, as well as the chareidi parties and Habayit Hayehudi from the Right.
“To advance the issue of ‘sharing the burden,’ we need Lapid in the government. To make progress on peace, we need the support of the chareidim,” the source said. “Only a broad-based government that includes all of the streams in Israeli society will allow freedom of action on issues of substance.”
Speaking on Army Radio on Thursday morning, Likud Yisrael Beytenu MK Tzachi Hanegbi, who is considered very close to Netanyahu, said “an equal sharing of the burden will happen, even with the chareidim in the coalition, because the public wants it and because there is a court order to do it.
“Lapid and the chareidim will have to compromise – there is going to be a dramatic and meaningful change in the sharing of the burden. It is going to be gradual but it will happen. The chareidim have for years tried to distance this day, but the day has arrived, and it arrived also because the court has ordered a change. The peace process must be advanced because that is in the interest of the country,” Hanegbi said.
In Likud-Beytenu, there is an assessment that aside from the chareidi parties, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party is also on the cusp of entering the coalition. It is too early to say whether Yesh Atid, Kadima and Habayit Hayehudi will also enter the government. Although the latter’s inclusion in the government is thought to be almost certain, officials in the party on Thursday said that this was not to be taken for granted.
Even though there is no intention of bringing Meretz into the coalition, Netanyahu will meet on Thursday with Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On, who is expected to call on him to put together a government that will advance the peace process.
In the meantime, it seems that the political alliance that was forming in recent days between Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid is being shaken up, over the key issue of “sharing the burden.” Habayit Hayehudi has decided, following pressure from party members and rabbis, that Lapid’s plan for drafting chareidim is not acceptable to them. In the coming days, the party will draft its own plan, after it studies the other plans that have been drafted, including that of Deputy Prime Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, and the plan formulated by former Kadima MK Yochanan Plesner.
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