Likud Ministers Murmur Over Might-Have-Been

YERUSHALAYIM -
israel coalition government
Yisrael Katz, Finance Minister and senior Likud official. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Following Yamina leader Naftali Bennett’s speech pledging to join Yair Lapid’s “change” bloc, there was murmuring within the Likud by ministers who said that Prime Minister Netanyahu should have been more willing to step aside and let someone else lead the party for a period of time that would have made possible the entry of other right-wing leaders into a Likud-led coalition, Channel 12 reported.

At a Likud gathering earlier on Sunday, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz confirmed what he had repeatedly denied until then, that he had proposed such a scenario to Netanyahu and been rebuffed.

Katz said that he suggested primaries for the party leadership, with the winner replacing Netanyahu as prime minister for one year — after which Netanyahu would presumably return.

That would open the way for Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party to join the government, as it would theoretically remove the latter’s objection to serving under Netanyahu. Then Yamina would also come on board and the right wing would rule.

As to who would head Likutz, Katz believed that he would, after winning the primaries.

“I believed my chances of election were high due to my roots in the movement and my extensive experience and the senior positions in which I successfully served as agriculture, transportation, intelligence, foreign and now finance minister,” Katz said.

But Netanyahu said no.

Whether such a scheme would have worked will remain one of the imponderables of Israeli politics. In the meantime, the Lapid and Bennett negotiating teams were reportedly pressing on with talks on Sunday night, hoping to reach an agreement before the mandate to form a government runs out on Wednesday.