A Coalition Without Chareidim?

YERUSHALAYIM -

The prospects of Shas and United Torah Judaism entering the government coalition appeared to diminish on Tuesday, as Shas chairman Eli Yishai expressed his frustration over negotiations with Likud-Beiteinu.

“My sense is that the prime minister prefers Yesh Atid to us,” Yishai told Army Radio. “[Yair] Lapid himself simply doesn’t want to sit [in the coalition] with us, and nothing will convince him otherwise.”

Some Likud officials continue to suspect a secret pact between Lapid and Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett to keep Shas out of the next government, according to Yisrael Hayom. A factor working in Lapid’s favor is the “American and European pressure to strengthen the coalition with elements that are more interested than the religious are in resuming the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. While Tzipi Livni is important, she is not enough. The West wants to see Lapid at the Cabinet table,” the paper said.

However, sources close to Netanyahu said the prime minister wants to see both Yesh Atid and the chareidi parties in the government, along with Jewish Home, Kadima and Tzipi Livni’s party.

The issue of drafting yeshivah students continues to be the major impediment, though proposals are being drafted in search of a viable compromise.

Meanwhile, whatever personal differences exist between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Bennett, the latter’s party looks set to be the first to sign onto the coalition, according to a report in Yisrael Hayom, the daily paper considered close to the Prime Minister.

Being first gives Bennett first pick of some ministerial portfolios and committee chairmanships.