There were reports of a compromise among the coalition negotiators late Wednesday which will pave the way for a new government of Likud-Beiteinu, Yesh Atid, Jewish Home and Hatenuah.
The news broke at the end of a day during which Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was said to have issued an ultimatum to Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid that if he would not show flexibility in some of his demands, Netanyahu would go back to the chareidi parties and make a coalition with them instead.
Although nothing was announced officially, Lapid agreed to give up his demand for the Interior Ministry in return for the Education Ministry, and Likud would take Interior, according to media reports.
Yesh Atid also relented on a previously won demand to limit the Cabinet to 20 ministers, clearing the way for Likud to appoint MK Amir Peretz (Movement) to Environment Minister, thus honoring a prior commitment.
According to the deal, Lapid will become Finance Minister, Yesh Atid MK Shai Piron will become Education Minister, while two other Yesh Atid MK’s will receive the Health and Science portfolios.
According to numerous media reports, Jewish Home MKs will reportedly receive three portfolios. Naftali Bennett will be Minister of Economics and Commerce, which will be the new name of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, and an MK from the party will be named Sports and Culture Minister. Uri Ariel will be the Minister of Construction and Housing and will be in charge of the Israel Lands Administration. Nissan Slomiansky will head the Knesset Finance Committee, a post they said was vital to their interests.
Outgoing Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) will likely head the Interior Ministry.
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, who has been described as the go-between for Netanyahu and Lapid in recent days, was credited with engineering the deal.
As late as Wednesday afternoon, a coalition agreement seemed to be slipping through their fingers.
“Pandemomium is breaking loose,” a Jewish Home source told Arutz Sheva Wednesday. “Lapid thinks Bibi will fold, but Bibi won’t. It’s a game of chicken gone wrong.”
Hours later, they were telling the media of a breakthrough.
After 38 days of coalition talks, Netanyahu reportedly had had enough of Lapid’s “excessive demands,” and Likud sources were saying on Wednesday that if he didn’t climb down, Netanyahu would make his coalition with the chareidim and Lapid would sit in the opposition instead.
Netanyahu had already met with Shas leader Eli Yishai on Tuesday night, The Jerusalem Post reported.
“My heart goes out to the prime minister who is expected in the coming years to be prisoner to the whims of Yesh Atid and Jewish Home,” Yishai said.
With the final deadline for forming a new government approaching on Motzoei Shabbos, the negotiators weren’t the only ones feeling the pressure.
Meretz MK Issawi Freij proposed a bill on Wednesday to shorten the amount of time allotted for negotiations to 21 days.
“The current situation is intolerable and harmful to society and the market,” Freij said. “To put the entire country on hold in order to play negotiating games is irresponsible.”
According to Freij, Netanyahu is busy with “media spins and fights over portfolios,” instead of dealing with the deficit or passing a budget.