Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett are expected to meet in the next few days, despite tense personal relations between the two.
The meeting will be the first between the two men since the Jan. 22 election. Their relationship has been strained since 2008, when Bennett, who headed Netanyahu's office while he served as opposition leader, suddenly left Netanyahu's service. Analysts believe that despite tensions, the national-religious Habayit Hayehudi will end up joining the coalition.
Meanwhile, Habayit Hayehudi has another burning issue to which to attend — the ongoing battle between ultra-Orthodox party Shas and Yair Lapid's party Yesh Atid. Israel Hayom discovered that Rabbi Haim Druckman — one of the leaders of the national-religious camp — recently met with Yesh Atid No. 2 Rabbi Shai Piron to discuss the issue of equality in sharing the burden of mandatory military or national service on all Israeli citizens, including the ultra-Orthodox who, until now, have been exempt.
According to sources close to Druckman, the rabbi does not want Habayit Hayehudi to be the only religious party in the coalition, and is trying to bridge the gaps between Lapid and Shas (which Lapid does not want in the coalition). Piron confirmed to Israel Hayom that he had met with Druckman, but refused to divulge the details of their meeting.
Shas and Habayit Hayehudi are also on the warpath. After several articles criticizing Bennett and his party appeared in the ultra-Orthodox Shas mouthpiece Yom Leyom, top Habayit Hayehudi officials are accusing Shas co-chairman Aryeh Deri of leading the campaign against them. They say that Deri has tried to convince the prime minister to include Shas in the next coalition while excluding Habayit Hayehudi. Deri's camp has denied the claims.
"Bennett trusts Lapid more than he trusts Deri," said a senior Habayit Hayehudi official. "[Shas co-chairman Eli] Yishai has met with rabbis and has tried to lead a reconciliation campaign, while Deri was behind the articles in Yom Leyom."
This allegation was also denied. "Deri was livid about the Yom Leyom attack [against Bennett]," his associate said. "He has met with national-religious leaders, including Rabbi Eliyakim Levanon, and he recently toured Samaria. A serious process of dialogue has begun with the religious camp and he doesn't want to undermine that."
Meanwhile, after calling Habayit Hayehudi a "house of goyim" and "infidels" last month, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef honed in on Lapid over the weekend, calling the head of the second-largest party a "yeshiva-hating miscreant."
The rabbi revealed his true feelings about Lapid in a parable he told his followers — just as his party and others engaged in negotiating their spot in Netanyahu's coalition.
"There was a king who had a favorite minister, and he loved this minister," Yosef said.
"The minister would visit the king and they would talk about security and the coalition and the opposition, all the different things that people talk about. The minister advised the king: Don't go with Lapid. He is a miscreant. He hates the yeshivot [religious schools]. And every time he came, the king would [out of gratitude for the good advice] honor this minister, speak with him, and tell him all his secrets."