Associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have met with representatives for Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni to discuss her inclusion in the next coalition, Israel Radio reported on Tuesday.
The report launched speculation that the prime minister is seeking a government without haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties and without Habayit Hayehudi; instead preferring to establish a secular-based government with Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid.
Both sides officially denied the report, though neither side ruled out the scenario either.
Netanyahu himself hinted as such in a speech on Tuesday evening, noting three social goals he intends to achieve during his next term: Lowering housing prices and moving the Housing and Construction Ministry out of "sectoral" hands; changing the system of government; and instituting a law for equal sharing of the national service burden, hinting at national service requirements for all Israelis.
Tuesday's speech ended a day of speculation by some who said that Netanyahu had already initiated direct talks with Livni, intending to cooperate after the elections, and that Livni would receive a senior position for diplomatic negotiations.
The head of the Likud party's election campaign, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel Radio that their report was false and that Netanyahu didn't send any representatives to meet with Livni.
One Likud official said, "Election outcomes for the Likud will affect the coalition composition more than anything else. At this time, it appears that Netanyahu prefers to form a government that will deal with civil issues and a universal draft law, which means he would prefer a government without any haredim, whose impact would be weaker than in the outgoing government."
Meanwhile, tensions between Shas and the Likud were easing, despite Netanyahu's recent call for the Housing and Construction portfolio to move from Shas to Likud-Beytenu.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) continued his efforts to calm relations with the Likud on Tuesday, saying in an interview on Kol Beramah, "We will support Netanyahu and recommend him to the president [to form a coalition]. That is our desire."
Regarding the recent spat, Yishai added, "There is no doubt that during election season, everyone tries to go for every vote. The more seats we win, the more portfolios we can demand."
Current Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias (Shas) denied on Tuesday that he said that if his portfolio was taken from him, Netanyahu would not be prime minister. "I never said anything of the sort," Atias said on the radio.