Netanyahu Seeks to Beat the Clock in Marathon Coalition Talks

YERUSHALAYIM -
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman seen at the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With just a week to go until he must announce a government, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu put negotiations into high gear Wednesday, conducting marathon negotiations with the parties he expects to have in his government. On Wednesday morning, representatives of the religious and chareidi parties – United Torah Judaism, Shas and United Right List – met with Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in order to finalize the parties’ demands on matters of religion and state. All three parties have committed to negotiate together on those issues.

That meeting took place after Levin met with Netanyahu to discuss the demands of the religious and chareidi parties. Netanyahu himself met with Rabbi Aryeh Deri, chairman of Shas, earlier Wednesday, and reportedly discussed methods by which the Prime Minister could bridge the substantial gap between Chareidi parties and Yisrael Beytenu on matters of religion and state. With that, a meeting that had been set with UTJ Wednesday on budget issues was cancelled.

Netanyahu will also meet Wednesday night with Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman. Earlier, Kan News quoted Likud officials as saying that there had been “progress” in the negotiations with Liberman, especially in the areas of defense and security. The sources said that the talks between the two were taking place in a “positive atmosphere” with the discussions “friendly.”

Among the demands Liberman has presented is an increase in pensions. Earlier, Blue and White number two Yair Lapid urged Liberman in a social media post “not to give in” on the issue. “If you need votes from the opposition to pass a law for immigrants to receive full state pensions, we will be with you.”

In response, Liberman wrote in a social media post that he did not need Lapid’s assistance. “If I need your help I will give you a call on the phone, not on social media. In addition, we are not seeking increased pensions only for immigrants, but to ensure that all pensioners are paid the equivalent of the minimum wage, NIS 3,710. And to make it clear especially to you, I stress that this is for all Israelis – veteran and immigrant, religious and secular,.” Liberman wrote.