Likud-Beiteinu, Jewish Home to Meet on Friday

YERUSHALAYIM -

On Thursday evening it was announced that

a meeting would take place between Likud-Beiteinu and Jewish Home negotiators on Friday, but not before each side had threatened the other with dire consequences in what the Israeli newspaper Yisrael Hayom front-paged on Thursday morning as “a game of nerves.”

Since Tzipi Livni signed on to the coalition earlier in the week, Likud-Beiteinu and Jewish Home have exchanged recriminations alternating with conciliatory statements as these two right-wing parties labored through an impasse and the nation looked on in dismay.

On Wednesday night, Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett called on Likud-Beiteinu to enter into negotiations with his party, despite mounting pressure from within the party to boycott the coalition. It was charged that Netanyahu broke a campaign promise not to give Livni a hand
in negotiations with the Palestinians, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“The negotiations are on the prime minister’s shoulder, and we want to give him a hand,” Bennett said. “For decades we were natural partners. In the campaign, we were blatantly smeared. Something in our partnership unraveled, but it is not too late to fix it.”

A source close to the prime minister was quoted on Thursday as saying that Netanyahu was intent on forming a coalition of 57 MKs composed of Likud-Beiteinu, Shas, UTJ, Livni and Kadima, and if Jewish Home refused to join to create a ruling majority, then they would be responsible for another round of elections.

Likud sources told Army Radio that Bennett has no choice but to join the government because of the backlash he would suffer if  Netanyahu is forced to go to elections again due to Jewish Home’s refusal to join the government. Their supporters would also be angry if Netanyahu forms a center-left government with Tzipi Livni, Labor and Kadima without Jewish Home, the officials said.

Both sides appeared to concede the logic of having to work together, though, with the announcement of a Friday meeting.

There was even a plaintive note: “We want to be a part of the Netanyahu government; we’re his natural partners. But right now no one is negotiating with us,” Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked told Army Radio.

“There is no reason for Jewish Home not to play a role in the national camp” was the response that came back from Likud on Thursday.

However, later in the evening, Jewish Home was issuing preconditions. A statement said  that party representatives would demand changes in the Netanyahu-Livni agreement.

“Our first condition will be that Livni’s role [in negotiations with the Palestinians] will not stay as it is,” a party spokesman told Ynet.

Another report followed, saying that Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid and Kadima head Shaul Mofaz met secretly on Thursday to coordinate their negotiating positions.