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UTJ rejects secret offer of Bennett-less coalition

CM 25/05/2021

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Leaders of the bloc seeking to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted behind the scenes to woo United Torah Judaism in place of Yamina in recent days to prevent a fifth election in under 30 months, sources in the bloc revealed on Tuesday.
The goal was to build a coalition composed of the 62 MKs of Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu, Labor, Meretz, New Hope, United Torah Judaism and Ra’am (United Arab List). The prime minister could have been either Blue and White leader Benny Gantz or New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar.
“There are those of us who prefer UTJ over Yamina if they would have the courage to agree,” said a source in the bloc.
But so far, only a minority of UTJ MKs have endorsed the idea, leaving a coalition of the change bloc with Yamina led by Naftali Bennett as the only possible option. Within Yamina, the only remaining obstacle to joining the coalition is the party’s No. 2, Ayelet Shaked.
Yesh Atid is continuing its efforts to finalize coalition agreements with all the parties in the bloc by the end of the week, and then to present Bennett with a ready government over the weekend, ahead of the June 2 deadline for Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to form a government.
To that end, Yesh Atid has agreed to appoint 28 ministers, after initially insisting on only 21. The government would include an Arab minister, Meretz’s Esawi Frej, as regional cooperation minister, sources familiar with the talks confirmed.
Frej would be one of three Meretz ministers, along with Nitzan Horowitz as minister of health and Tamar Zandberg as environmental protection minister.

A source in New Hope said the party had no problem with Frej. A Yamina spokesman said “this has no connection to us.”
Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir responded that “Esawi can be a minister in Syria and would do good work, but not in the State of Israel.”
During Operation Guardian of the Walls, Frej called for solidarity between Arabs and Jews on Twitter.
“At this time it is forbidden to be silent!” he wrote. “The anarchy in the streets of Ramle, Lod and other places threatens our existence as a society. We now have one task as public leaders – to work for calm, to [build] understanding between Arabs and Jews as neighbors and not enemies. Please, return to your homes and stop the violence.”
Yesh Atid finalized a coalition agreement with Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party overnight on Monday. The agreement includes matters of religion and state, and building new hospitals in the Negev and Galilee.
Under the deal, Liberman will be finance minister, his No. 2 Oded Forer will head the Knesset Finance Committee, and the party will receive two more portfolios, which are expected to be the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, and the Aliyah and Integration Ministry.
If a government cannot be formed, Lapid sent Frej to submit a bill that would dissolve the Knesset, so it would be clear to the public that a new election would be Bennett’s fault, for not joining the government.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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