Deal-making for unity government goes on through most of the night

Negotiations for ministries and important committees rev up as Yesh Atid has until Wednesday night to tell the president that a coalition has been formed.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Yesh Atid party negotiators sat until 3 a.m. Monday with the three remaining parties in the unity government they hope to form following Yemina head Naftali Bennett’s announcement Sunday evening that he had given up on forming a coalition with the Likud.

“Significant progress” with the Yemina, Blue and White and New Hope factions was reported by Hebrew media, but there are still several gaps to be narrowed as the deal-making continues Monday.

Some of the demands the right-wing New Hope and Yemina parties are making would force Lapid to break promises he made to Labor, Meretz and Israel Beiteinu in order to lock down their support.

For example, Bennett’s No. 2, MK Ayelet Shaked, is set to receive the Interior Ministry. But she wants to fold the Negev and Galilee Development portfolio into her purview although it has been slated for Israel Beiteinu. Another disputed office is the Diaspora Ministry, which was secured days ago by the Labor party.

A third stumbling block is the all-important Judicial Selection Committee. Only three of its members can be legislators, and one of the posts has been reserved for Labor chairwoman Merav Michaeli. The two others will be elected secretly. To ensure that the right-wing has at least one voice in the group that will be filling several Supreme Court positions in the coming years, both New Hope and Yemina are demanding that Michaeli give up her seat if both elected posts go to leftist MKs.

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Even if Lapid manages to induce the Jewish parties that range from the solid left, center and right to compromise so that all the circles can be squared, this adds up to 58 of the 61 votes he needs in the Knesset. And if Amichai Chikli of Yemina carries through on his threat to become a one-man faction rather than join a left-wing government, Lapid will be four short.

This means that at least one of the two Arab parties would have to support the minority government from the outside. (The chances of Yemina and New Hope agreeing to a coalition with these anti-Zionist parties are considered nil.)

Five of the six Joint List MKs recommended to President Reuven Rivlin that Lapid get the chance to form a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed. However, it is considered more likely that the Islamist Ra’am party (four seats) would agree to back him in the legislature, as its campaign is now focused on bettering the lives of its Israeli Arab voters. In struggling to form a coalition, both Netanyahu and Lapid hade promised Ra’am budgets and positions in Knesset committees.

Lapid has until Wednesday at midnight to tell Rivlin that he has managed to cobble together a coalition that would receive the backing of a majority of the Knesset. He then has another week before he must present his list to the Knesset for formal approval.