Netanyahu Begins Forming Coalition

“You shall also seek out from among all the people capable men who fear Hashem, trustworthy men who spurn ill-gotten gain. Set these over them as chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.” Exodus 18:21 (The Israel Bible™)

As head of the Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu begins negotiations with the other parties on Sunday in an attempt to gather 61 seats for a majority coalition that would make him the next prime minister of Israel. As per the results of the national elections, Netanyahu was tasked with forming a coalition last Wednesday by President Reuven Rivlin who deemed it more likely that a right-wing coalition could be formed that a left-wing coalition under Benny Gantz and the Blue and White Party. It is estimated that Netanyahu will be able to form a right-wing coalition with a 65 seat majority.

The talks will begin when Likud’s negotiating team, led by tourism minister Yariv Levin, meets with their counterparts from Yisrael Beiteinu led by former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman who won five seats in the election.

“Tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. negotiations will begin between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties,” Liberman tweeted. “Yisrael Beytenu has a clear agenda consisting of three issues: security, immigration and absorption, and religion and state. With all the will to join a coalition, and with a willingness to be flexible, we will not give up our basic principles.”

Liberman has traditionally been a political ally of Netanyahu but last November, he abandoned the coalition over a disagreement concerning how the conflict with Gaza was being handled by the government. This dropped the coalition to 61 seats, the bare minimum needed to remain in power. Liberman’s constituents are generally Russian immigrants. Liberman’s platform calls for businesses and public transportation being allowed to remain open on Shabbat. They also call for ending the Chief Rabbinate’s control over marriage and divorce, and passing legislation regulating exemptions to conscription of ultra-Orthodox students into the IDF.

These demands put him at odds with the ultra-orthodox voters represented by United Torah Judaism party (UTJ)  that garnered eight seats in the last election and Shas, with seven seats.

Liberman wants his job as Defense Minister back as well as the Absorption (Immigration) Ministry.

Netanyahu is also expected to meet later this week with Moshe Kahlon, a former member of Likud and currently the head of the Kulanu party. Kahlon, serving as Netanyahu’s Finance Minister, ran on a platform focusing on socio-economic issues.