Shas leader Rabbi Aryeh Deri has turned down a power-sharing offer from Likud in which he could have been named prime minister for a year, Yisrael Hayom reported Sunday.
Likud sources said the offer would have paved the way for New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar to join the government.
Rabbi Deri declined the offer, saying he “has no interest in becoming prime minister,” according to the report.
Insiders in both Likud and Shas confirmed that in order to resolve the political deadlock and form a right-wing government, Binyamin Netanyahu was willing to consider allowing another MK to take office first as part of a premiership rotation deal, and that of the options available, Rabbi Deri was his first choice.
Rabbi Deri’s office confirmed that the offer was made and declined, reiterating that the Shas leader was not interested in becoming prime minister.
This comes after reports that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz also hinted that he would be willing to join Netanyahu’s government if he were guaranteed he would take office first as part of a power-sharing deal.
He also seeks to remain the defense minister.
Gantz is Netanyahu’s partner in the outgoing unity government, in which he was supposed to take office second. Were it not for the March 23 elections, the rotation agreements would have taken effect in November.
Likud officials said that it was unclear whether Netanyahu was considering this option, but said the factions were “talking.”
Over at the change-Netanyahu bloc, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina head Naftali Bennett continue in their efforts to stitch together a coalition.
According to reports, the two are working out the final details on their power-sharing deal with hopes of presenting President Reuven Rivlin with a government even before Netanyahu’s mandate expires next week.
However, insiders have warned that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid’s “amateurism will see Netanyahu remain in power.”
Sources familiar with the negotiations between the bloc’s members – Yesh Atid, Yamina, Yisrael Beytenu, New Hope, Blue and White, Labor and Meretz – have described Lapid’s tactics as “inept,” saying he insists on a government comprising no more than 20 ministers, as per his campaign promise to form a narrow government, while Bennett and Sa’ar see the government expanding to 28 ministers.
This would still be paring down from the current government, which has 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers.
“Lapid doesn’t understand that Bennett and Sa’ar see him as a platform – nothing more,” a source familiar with the talks said. “Lapid will end up being the one who prevents a government with Bennett and this amateurism will see Netanyahu remain in power.”
Yesh Atid issued a statement rejecting the claims, saying, “Yair Lapid and his negotiating team are working tirelessly to install an Israeli unity government.”