Surprises in Netanyahu Coalition Talks

Lieberman is out, and with just hours remaining till the deadline, Netanyahu had secured only a minority government

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Time is quickly running out for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to conclude coalition talks. His new government must be presented to President Reuven Rivlin by Thursday morning.

But it is proving difficult to meet the deadline.

As the situation stood on Tuesday afternoon, there was a very real possible that in addition to serving as prime minister, Netanyahu would also fill the post of foreign minister. This after former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (pictured) officially announced he and his Israel Beiteinu party (six seats) would join the opposition.

For years Lieberman has been one of Netanyahu’s staunchest allies in the Knesset. But he leveled harsh criticism at the prime minister for his seemingly hesitant approach to last year’s Gaza war.

Said Lieberman following his decision:

“Our dilemma was principles, not seats. We had no problem with the ministerial positions, and we did indeed receive the Foreign Ministry in full during negotiations… This coalition does not reflect the positions of the Zionist camp, and it is not to our taste, to say the least.”

It remained possible that Lieberman’s move was a last-minute negotiating tactic to squeeze even concessions, but even if, it left Netanyahu with very few choices.

With just 48 hours till the deadline, Netanyahu had signed agreements only with the centrist Kulanu Party and the ultra-Orthodox factions Shas and United Torah Judaism, giving him a minority coalition of just 53 seats.

The hope going into the home stretch was that Netanyahu could conclude a deal with Naftali Bennett and his Jewish Home party, giving the coalition the slimmest of majorities with 61 seats. But by press time, Bennett had cut off all contacts with Likud after being denied the Foreign Ministry for himself.

The problem is that even with Bennett and his eight seats, Netanyahu’s government will be considered too narrow to effectively govern, and would almost certainly lead to early elections, yet again.

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