Shaked reportedly working to stop Bennett from forming opposition government

Yemina’s No. 2 fiercely opposes relying on the Hamas-supporting Ra’am party even from outside the government.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The No. 2 ranking member of the Yemina party, Ayelet Shaked, is trying to torpedo the formation of a Left-center-Right coalition, sources in the opposition told Channel 12 on Wednesday.

Shaked hasn’t given up hope of forming a Likud-led, right-wing coalition, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Yemina leader Naftali Bennett appears serious about joining the opposition bloc on the condition that he leads it despite winning only six seats in the last election. Reports on Thursday say he might merge with another right-wing party, New Hope, bringing the size of his party to 13 in order to make his leadership more palatable to the public.

Bennett’s willingness to negotiate with the opposition is a surprising turn of events as he is thought of as ideologically to the right of Netanyahu.

Negotiations accelerated on Wednesday with Bennett meeting Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party, and later with Gideon Saar of the New Hope party.

Shaked, a politician popular with the Right, could block a coalition from forming if another member of the Yemina party joins her in refusing to approve it. Likud officials say privately that Shaked would look like a hero if she torpedoes the deal. “She’ll be thought of as someone who protects the right wing,” a source told Israel Hayom last week.

However, other reports suggest it’s not ideology that’s motivating Shaked, but the assumption that a government consisting of parties with contradictory ideologies that relies on anti-Zionist Arab parties for support will not survive for long.

Walla News reports that Shaked has been talking with the haredi parties for weeks in an attempt to convince them to join the opposition, as they have sat in left-wing governments before. With haredi support, the government would have a better chance of lasting long-term.

She met Wednesday with United Torah Judaism’s Meir Porush to see if his party would support an opposition government. Porush said that the party couldn’t help as long as Avigdor Liberman of Israel Beiteinu party was the bloc’s candidate for finance minister. Liberman has repeatedly attacked the haredi parties.

“There may be something to discuss,” he said, if a different party has the ministry, said the report.

The Finance Ministry holds the purse strings to government support of haredi schools and Talmudic academies, a key issue for the ultra-Orthodox.

Yemina has vowed to do everything possible to prevent a fifth round of elections. If Shaked succeeds in prying loose one haredi party from the Netanyahu bloc for this purpose, she – and Bennett – will then need to break different promises they made to their electorate: Not to sit under Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid.

Heading the largest opposition party with 17 seats, Lapid will likely serve as prime minister on a rotational basis, though reports say he has already agreed that Bennett should be first.