Under pressure, Netanyahu considers temporary coalition of 60 MKs

With less than two weeks left to form a coalition government, the prime minister floats a temporary solution.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Sources in the Likud revealed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seriously considering the possibility of forming a temporary government of only 60 Knesset members, Yediot Aharonot reported Thursday.

The idea is reportedly being considered due to the difficulties negotiating the demands of the Yisrael Beitenu party, headed by Avigdor Liberman, coupled with a looming deadline – May 29 – to create a government authorized by the Knesset.

However, the report noted, it could only work if Liberman’s right-wing, Russian immigrant-based party either abstains or is absent from the vote in the legislature, in which case exactly half the Knesset would vote in favor of the coalition and less than half would vote against it. Such a slim majority would enable Netanyahu to officially begin his fourth term in a row as prime minister.

The assumption is that despite the impasse in negotiations with Liberman, he would not want to be accused of bringing down a right-wing government. He has also publicly declared that he would not support anyone else but Netanyahu as prime minister and panned the idea of a national-unity government of Likud and the Blue and White parties.

Such an amalgamation, he wrote on his Facebook page, would be “a national paralysis coalition.”

Liberman has played hard-to-get before. The most recent coalition stood at 61 members for two years until he brought his party in to make it a safer 67, with his personal prize being the Defense Ministry.

This time, one of his central demands is to pass the Draft Law for the ultra-Orthodox that he proposed unsuccessfully in the last government. The haredi parties are resisting, but this time they have a much stronger voice, with 16 combined seats to Yisrael Beitenu’s five.

Religion-state issues are not the only threats to Netanyahu’s chance of forming a government. His “natural coalition partners,” as he has called Kulanu, Yisrael Beitenu, United Torah Judaism, Shas and the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP), are making very challenging demands, he said.

“One faction asked for four ministerial portfolios – for every one of its MKs,” he said at a memorial Wednesday, apparently referring to the four-member Kulanu party.

In addition, the eight-member haredi UTJ has asked for three portfolios and two chairmanships of Knesset committees, and the URWP want three ministries when they have only five MKs.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu still must satisfy the demands of his own senior party members, who also have expectations, especially considering that the Likud has a far greater number of seats (30) than its partners. But creating new ministries in order to satisfy everyone would cost the taxpayers tens of millions of shekels.

The money each faction is requesting for its pet projects is also too much, the prime minister said. They would be “reasonable if we had the U.S.’s budget. We don’t. We can’t destroy our state budget and our economy.”