Coalition talks remain deadlocked in Israel
JERUSALEMA month after his right-wing Likud-Beitenu alliance narrowly won an election, Premier Benjamin Netanyahu is still striving to build a coalition, as talk emerges about the possibility of going to the polls again.
Although the small, centrist Hatnuah party agreed on Feb. 19 to come on board, its six parliamentary seats added to Likud-Beitenu’s 31 still leave Netanyahu a long way from a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. Likud-Beitenu met Feb. 22 with negotiators from Naftali Bennett’s hard-line-Orthodox Jewish Home party, and then with the ultra-Orthodox Shas, however both ended without a formal declaration of any progress.
The Israeli media say that prospective coalition partners, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Jewish Home and Kadima, with a combined total of 33 seats, were working together to exert the maximum political price for cooperating with Netanyahu. Channel 10 reported that in closed conversations, Lapid said there was no longer a reason to join the government and for him to become foreign minister, because Livni had already been given authority over negotiations with the Palestinians.
As the horse trading dragged on, a Jewish Home delegate to coalition talks said Netanyahu had been warning that he could call another general election. “I heard that the prime minister said that if he doesn’t manage to form a coalition then perhaps we’ll have to go to elections.” The latest opinion polls showed that if new elections were held now Likud-Beitenu would be weakened still further. Yedioth Ahronoth reported on a survey conducted by Panels Politics Polling Institute, which showed Yesh Atid skyrocketing to 30 seats to become the largest single party.