Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may have finished the arduous process of negotiating an emergency government agreement with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, but he hasn’t finished with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett.
Bennett’s right-wing party, one of Netanyahu’s coalition partners long before Gantz signed on last week, has so far refused to go along with the unity deal, objecting to concessions made to the center-left, ministerial appointments and a range of issues.
On Wednesday night, Netanyahu had a meeting with Bennett to try to work out something to keep Yamina on board, but all they could do when it was over was to crank out a joint statement saying it had been “positive” and they’ll do it again sometime.
According to Kan news, Yamina is demanding three ministries for the six Knesset seats it brings to the table. That may seem like a lot, but they don’t think so, given that Gantz got 16 ministers and deputy ministers for his 15 MKs.
Among the issues that remain unresolved was that of a possible prisoner swap to free Israeli captives and soldiers’ remains held in Gaza by Hamas.
Bennett said Wednesday at a press conference while the party wants to be in the government, that’s only if it advances their agenda.
“We always want to be in government, but only if the ship is sailing in the same direction more or less that we find acceptable,” he said.
Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked said the party deserves more than is being offered. “The right-wing bloc is very important to the [government], but if the prime minister does not see fit to give Yamina a significant place in it, we would not want to be an extra wing in a huge government,” she said.
Curiously, media reports did not mention what had supposedly been the most contentious point, that of Justice Ministry. Yamina had said that appointing Blue and White’s Avi Nissenkorn to the post would frustrate ongoing efforts to reform the judiciary by the right wing.
Likud sources told Channel 13 they might do to Yamina what they did to Blue and White:
“If Yamina doesn’t accept our offer, we will try to break it up and bring them in in pieces,” the source said. “First [Rabbi] Rafi Peretz and then [Bezalel] Smotrich.”
In response, Yamina issued a statement saying, “We are one faction. We won’t let the prime minister do to us what he did to Blue and White,” referring to the dissolution of Gantz’s alliance with Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon.