Six weeks of coalition talks drew toward a successful conclusion Wednesday evening, when the Likud finally conceded the Education Ministry to Yesh Atid’s
, and Lapid reportedly accepted the other terms of Likud’s compromise offer.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to meet with Lapid, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman late Wednesday to confirm the terms.
The necessary legal documents were to be drawn up and signed Thursday, leaving Netanyahu free to formally inform President Shimon Peres on Saturday night – the final day of the six weeks allocated to him – that he has mustered a Knesset majority. The coalition will comprise four parties: Likud-Beytenu (31 seats), Yesh Atid (19), Jewish Home (12) and Hatnua (6), for a total of 68 members in the 120-seat Knesset.
The outgoing government is set to hold a final meeting on Sunday, and the new government will be sworn in Monday – some 48 hours before the scheduled arrival of Barack Obama on his first presidential visit.
In return for having his No. 2, Rabbi Shai Piron, appointed education minister, Lapid agreed to give up on some of his other demands, including control of the Interior Ministry, his opposition to Hatnua having two ministers, and his objection to the Likud gaining an extra deputy minister, Channel 2 reported.
Gideon Sa’ar, Likud’s serving education minister, only learned that he would likely be losing his job from the TV reports, Channel 2 said, adding that he was now set to be made minister of the interior.
Along with Piron at education, Lapid himself is set to serve as finance minister, and Yesh Atid will likely have three other ministers in a cabinet of 21-22 members. Bennett will be minister of economics and trade, and his Jewish Home party will have two more ministers, one of whom is likely to be Uri Ariel at Housing.
Bennett reportedly told Lapid that if he didn’t accept Netanyahu’s compromise offer, Jewish Home would sign a coalition deal without Yesh Atid.
Netanyahu will hold the Foreign Ministry, to hand over to former foreign minister Liberman should he beat the fraud and breach of trust charges that forced his resignation in December. Likud’s former IDF chief of General Staff Moshe Ya’alon is set to succeed Ehud Barak as minister of defense. Likud-Beytenu will hold 10-11 ministries in all.
Tzipi Livni, who signed a coalition deal with Netanyahu last month, is to serve as justice minister, with her Hatnua party colleague Amir Peretz at environmental affairs.
There will be seven or eight deputy ministers, one of them, from Likud, at education.
Bennett, ending talks Wednesday afternoon with Lapid, had said he was confident that the two parties would yet resolve their differences with Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu and form a coalition. “There’ll be a government. I’m optimistic,” Bennett said, before heading off for further consultations with Likud representatives.