Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) stressed Jan. 24 that with the right-wing bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earning 61 of 120 Knesset seats—just more than half—in the recent election, the Likud Beytenu-led bloc does not need to incorporate Yesh Atid and its leader Yair Lapid into its coalition.
“Following the movement between blocs and the right-wing bloc currently resting at 61 seats, we have the option now to form a coalition without Lapid,” Erdan said. “I recommend that everyone understands that we must make compromises in our negotiations. Therefore, I also say to Lapid’s people that they shouldn’t draw red lines and make lofty demands from which they won’t be able to backtrack.”
When the final 220,000 votes from the election were tallied Jan. 24, Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party ended up with 12 Knesset seats rather than its initial total of 11, breaking a 60-60 tie among the Knesset blocs.
Likud Beytenu’s share dropped from 42 to 31 Knesset seats in the election (previously, the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties were separate). Lapid and his new party, meanwhile, won a surprising 19 seats.
“We need to examine how this happened,” Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Lieberman said. “We shouldn’t ignore the drop in seats. I acknowledge that 31 seats is much lower than what my staff and I estimated.”
Netanyahu and Lapid reportedly met for about two and a half hours the night of Jan. 24 to discuss their potential coalition. Lapid has made equality in sharing the national service burden, particularly the drafting of haredim into the IDF, a precondition to his joining the coalition. At the same time, senior Likud sources toldIsrael Hayom that Netanyahu’s first task in coalition talks with Lapid is to agree on drafting haredim into the IDF in a way that the haredi parties will be able to live with and thus remain in the government.