Israel: Coalition deal hits snag as deadline looms


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the Likud-Beiteinu faction meeting at the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) on March 14, 2013 in Jerusalem. Netanyahu is to formally unveil the shape of his long-awaited coalition government which will be sworn in just days before a visit by US President Barack Obama.



JERUSALEM — After several weeks of negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a coalition deal on Thursday as the Friday deadline loomed.

However, The Times of Israel reported that as of 4 p.m. in Israel, a last-minute snag delayed the coalition negotiations.

Netanyahu's wife, Sara, reportedly demanded that the leader of the Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, not be appointed as the deputy prime minister of the new government.

The deal will be down to the wire, with the Jewish Home party reportedly canceling its meeting with Netanyahu's Likud party.

The coalition deal, if it went through, would see Netanyahu retaining the prime minister position, with Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, serving as finance minister and Bennett becoming minister of trade and industry, the Guardian reported. The minister of defense post would be filled by Moshe Ya'alon of Netanyahu's Likud party.

It is far from the government Netanyahu hoped to establish. He can only really count on one of his top deputies — the new defense minister, Likud man and former IDF COS Moshe Ya'alon.

"I insisted that Likud Beytenu have a majority of ministers in government so we can get things done," Netanyahu said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The other two are an incredible pair: high tech millionaire and former Netanyahu adviser Bennett, heading a right-wing religious party with the principal goal of securing Israeli sovereignty over the territories, and Lapid, former columnist and TV host, who's carrying the flag of middle-class values. The one issue they share is to get ultra-Orthodox into the army, or, in Israeli jargon, "sharing the burden."

In every other respect, no one knows. Neither Lapid or Bennett has ever held elected office at any level. It is not clear Lapid has ever stepped foot into a government ministry. Neither has professional training that experts say would be needed to sustain the ministry he will not be leading. Lapid and Bennett joined forces in a very tight union to negotiate hard with Netanyahu. But beyond that, commentators say, they are untested, inexperienced and blank slates.

Taking the Finance Ministry is a real risk for Lapid who is criticized as having no defined economic philosophy and no known vision beyond sharing the economic burden. If the economy goes south, he will be held responsible.