Some leaders in the religious Zionist community are unhappy over Habayit Hayehudi chief Naftali Bennett's apparent embrace of Yair Lapid, the head of Yesh Atid, ahead of coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rabbi Tzefania Drori, the municipal rabbi of Kiryat Shmona and a leading religious Zionist figure, issued a warning to Bennett on Monday over the issue of drafting haredim into the military.
"If [Bennett] decides on these issues alone, without considering the Torah's opinion, it will be the end of his political career," Drori said.
A number of meetings have been held in recent days between religious Zionist and haredi leaders. Haredi rabbis are hoping to convince the spiritual patrons of Bennett and the Habayit Hayehudi to stop Bennett's move toward Lapid, particularly on the haredi enlistment issue.
One of the religious Zionist rabbis involved in the meetings told Israel Hayom: "The haredi world was shaken in the recent election and there are now two choices: either try to force haredi enlistment or talk to reach an agreement. Naftali [Bennett] needs to relax his embrace of Lapid. We are not against Torah study. We are for opportunities to equalize the national service burden. We can't go too far."
The religious Zionist rabbis have told Bennett, "You are not Lapid."
MK Uri Ariel, representing Habayit Hayehudi in coalition negotiations, said on Monday, "We won't support the [haredi enlistment] outline Lapid is proposing. There are improvements and amendments that have been passed on to [Yesh Atid]. They have agreed to some of them, such as excluding women from the [conscription] law. The intention is not to impose [haredi enlistment] by force."
Shas MK Ya'akov Margi said on Monday that "the Torah of Israel is stronger than any sort of political deal. Yair's late father [Tommy Lapid] said no to the haredim, but Yair is setting conditions that would leave us out [of the government]. If you ask me who is more dangerous, Yair is much more dangerous than his father was."
On Monday, the first round of coalition talks between Likud-Beytenu and potential coalition partners was completed.
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said, "If I were in the place of the prime minister, I would want United Torah Judaism and Shas in the coalition. We are veteran and stable parties that don't feed off headlines in the press."
After the first round of talks, it is believed that if Lapid does not show more flexibility, Netanyahu would prefer to leave Lapid out and form a government with Shas, United Torah Judaism, Habayit Hayehudi, Hatnuah and Kadima.
Habayit Hayehudi officials expressed anger during the campaign over Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's statement that Habayit Hayehudi was a "house of gentiles and heretics." As part of a rapprochement effort, Eli Yishai, one of Shas' top political leaders, said on Monday that Yosef's words were directed only against those who support civil marriage and non-Halachic conversions.
Meanwhile, it appears that Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah party, with six Knesset seats, could be among the first to agree to enter Netanyahu's coalition. Hatnuah officials met with Likud-Beytenu officials on Monday. Hatnuah demanded an executive role for Livni in leading diplomatic negotiations, a demand to which Netanyahu is unlikely to agree. But a compromise could be reached in which Livni joins, but does not lead, diplomatic efforts. Livni also wants a more equal distribution of the national service burden and a reform of the system of government, but her main demand for joining the coalition is diplomatic progress with the Palestinians.
Hatnuah's coalition negotiator Yossi Kotchik said, "Hatnuah won't be a fig leaf."
If Hatnuah joins the coalition, Netanyahu could also bring in Shaul Mofaz's Kadima Party, which has two seats. Mofaz wants to join the coalition and his main demands are on the national service burden and the state budget. Within Likud-Beytenu, however, there is concern that the person in charge of Kadima is not Mofaz, but rather former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
"Mofaz is interested in joining [the coalition], but the question is whether he will get the green light to do so from Olmert," a Likud-Beytenu official said.
Netanyahu was set to meet on Tuesday with Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, who has said her party would remain in the opposition. Despite this, associates of Yachimovich said there are a number of issues on which she could cooperate with Netanyahu during the next government's term.
Netanyahu may ask Yachimovich to support an equitable enlistment law. Such support could be necessary to pass the law if the ultra-Orthodox parties oppose it.