Netanyahu Reaches Out to Lapid as Deadline Nears

YERUSHALAYIM -

With three days to go before the initial period given to form a new government expires, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reached out on Monday to Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in an attempt to make a breakthrough in stalled coalition talks.

Netanyahu renewed his invitation to Lapid to join the coalition before time runs out, though there was no immediate reaction from Lapid’s office.

“Netanyahu calls for the formation of a government with a majority from the nationalist camp, and invites Yesh Atid to join as well,” a Likud statement said, referring to the Jewish Home party, which has yet to join.

There have been media reports over the past few days that Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett has worked out a compromise with Lapid on the issue of drafting yeshivah students, raising the number of exemptions to be granted and raising the draft age, as well.

The matter remains to be discussed with Likud-Beiteinu representatives. But whatever may be agreed, they will face the unequivocal opposition of the the charedi parties to any such quotas.

Likud-Beiteinu and Jewish Home officials met on Sunday night to discuss the forthcoming 2013 state budget and the draft, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“The gaps between our parties are not as wide as the statements of Bennett and his associates would indicate,” a source in the Likud-Beiteinu negotiating team was quoted as saying before the meeting.

Bennett defended his strategy in a statement saying that he made a pact with Lapid to either join the government together or not at all, because the Likud had decided to leave his party out of the government. Bennett has faced sharp criticism from the right for jeopardizing a right-center coalition by holding out with Lapid.

“Without coordinating with Lapid, there would have been a government of Likud-Beiteinu, Tzipi Livni’s Movement party, Yesh Atid, Kadima and Shas without Jewish Home,” Bennett said.