After weeks of rumors, substantial progress has reportedly been made in talks to form a unity government in Israel, Channel 10 reported. According to the report, the center-left Zionist Union party is set to join Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led government in exchange for eight portfolios, including the Foreign Ministry, currently held by Netanyahu.
The report was confirmed to Haaretz by sources in both parties. But head of the Zionist Union, Yitzchak Herzog, denied the reports. In a message sent out to party members Herzog called the report “baseless,” stating there have been no contacts with Likud as the report claimed. The Likud also officially denied the report.
According to a source privy to the talks, Herzog has met with lawmakers and officials from his party in recent days to try to convince them to join the government. Herzog told the MKs that there is currently an unprecedented opportunity to lead a diplomatic process in the Middle East, and it cannot be missed. Herzog also said that he is unwavering in his demand that the Zionist Union receive the Culture Ministry from the Likud’s Miri Regev.
According to a senior official in the Zionist Union, opposition to the move within the party has weakened, and the new government could form within a month when the Knesset returns from its summer recess.
Sources in the Likud noted that Netanyahu needs the Zionist Union and a diplomatic process to stave off attempts by Palestinians to push through a resolution in the U.N. after the U.S. elections, but before President Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017.
Netanyahu does not want Israel to go into any international summit on peace without Herzog in the government as he fears his right-wing partners will quit, sending Israel to a snap election.