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Bennett, Lapid, Sa’ar hold marathon talks to build gov’t when mandate ends

CM 29/04/2021

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Negotiating teams from Yamina, Yesh Atid and New Hope met for four-and-a-half hours on Thursday, in an effort to build a coalition by the time Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu’s mandate to form a government from President Reuven Rivlin ends on Tuesday night at midnight.
The negotiating teams dealt with the demands of the parties to form a government, starting with the demands of Yesh Atid and its leader, Yair Lapid. Marathon talks will be held over the weekend that will deal with the demands of Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar.
“We hope to go to the president with agreements in hand,” a spokesman for one of the three parties said.
If a deal is not reached by Tuesday, Lapid and Bennett could end up fighting over who receives the second mandate from Rivlin. Bennett wants it because he would go first in a rotation with Lapid, but Lapid is worried that Bennett could take the mandate and form a government with Netanyahu.
Currently, Lapid has more recommendations to form a government than any candidate, so he would get the mandate. But if the parties that recommended Netanyahu last time shift to Bennett, he could have a majority.
In the talks on Thursday, the parties disagreed about matters of religion and state. Yesh Atid sought cutbacks in government stipends for yeshiva students and large families; Yamina sought to limit measures that could be hard for the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector, because he wants Shas and United Torah Judaism to join the coalition.

The two sides also fought over the Justice, Education and Interior portfolios in Thursday’s negotiations. Yesh Atid demanded two of the three for its bloc, in an effort to give one to Labor leader Merav Michaeli and one to Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz. Yamina and New Hope are demanding to keep all three of the portfolios for their parties, namely Justice for Sa’ar, Education for New Hope MK Yifat Shasha-Biton and Interior for Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked. 

The negotiating team for Yesh Atid is Lapid’s adviser’s Hilel Kubrinsky and Dani Vesely. Yamina’s team is Bennett adviser’s Tal Gan-Tzvi and Shalom Shlomo. New Hope is represented at the talks by MKs Yoaz Hendel and Ze’ev Elkin and party leader Gideon Sa’ar’s chief of staff Eran Davidi.
There still remains an outside chance that Netanyahu could offer Bennett a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office in which the Yamina leader would go first and either New Hope or the Religious Zionist Party would join and enable Netanyahu to form a government.
But as of late Thursday night, Netanyahu had not made such an offer to Bennett or Sa’ar, as he has to Shas leader Arye Deri, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud).
In an apparent effort to prepare for when he would no longer be prime minister, Netanyahu is seeking to double the period of Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) protection of former prime ministers from 10 to 20 years, Channel 12 reported.
The ministerial committee on the Shin-Bet led by Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen (Likud) is set to meet next week to decide, but it would require the approval of Gantz, who was appointed acting justice minister on Wednesday.
Gantz is undecided on whether to permit the ministerial committee to convene. Each year of such protection costs taxpayers NIS 8 million, including for the former prime minister’s car and driver. The Prime Minister’s Office responded that “the prime minister does not decide his level of Shin Bet protection.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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