Netanyahu runs into trouble forming coalition

Tuesday, February 05, 2013 |  Ryan Jones

When the final results of Israel's recent election were revealed, it was widely assumed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would rather easily forge a majority coalition with Yair Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid party, which surprised everyone by becoming the Knesset's second largest faction.

But coalition talks, which began this week, aren't going as well as hoped, and senior officials in Netanyahu's Likud Party are becoming disillusioned about the chances of successfully forming a government with Lapid.

Likud officials have described Lapid, as former popular news anchor, as "arrogant," and said he had made coalition demands that far outweighed the importance of his party's 19 mandates.

Lapid responded to the tension by announcing that he has no problem going into the opposition, but warned that would result in the toppling of Netanyahu's government and his replacement as prime minister with Lapid himself. The statement only served to further infuriate Likud members.

The other top coalition option for Netanyahu is to form a government with the right-wing Jewish Home party. However, Jewish Home only has 12 seats, so that means Netanyahu would also need to include the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, which brings with it another 11 mandates.

The problem is that Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has gotten himself into a mud-slinging match with Shas. Bennett has come out in favor of Lapid's position that the Orthodox sector be made to serve in the army like everyone else, a policy Shas vehemently rejects.

There are also rumors that Yesh Atid and Jewish Home are mulling an alliance under which they will either enter the coalition together, or not at all. Officials from both parties insisted such rumors were exaggerated.

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