It appears increasingly likely that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form a coalition with Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi. It was revealed on Monday that Netanyahu held a secret meeting with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid last Friday.
At a Yesh Atid party meeting on Monday, Lapid said, "The coalition negotiations are far from over. There are more issues that we haven't resolved and one must remember that Israeli politics is full of surprises."
Lapid also said that the haredim would discover that Yesh Atid is not against them.
Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett sounded optimistic on Monday, saying, "In politics too, we are moving from winter into spring. This is a source of much goodwill and good feeling to establish a government. I hope that along the way we won't get a rash."
On Monday night, Bennett met with several top national religious rabbis, who expressed support for the steps Bennett has taken during coalition negotiations.
In a video address aired at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington on Monday, Netanyahu apologized for not being able to come speak in person.
"I had to stay in Israel to do something a lot more enjoyable — putting together a coalition government," Netanyahu said sarcastically. "What fun!"
"If I can offer a free piece of advice — don’t adopt Israel’s system of government," he added.
Meanwhile, Likud-Beytenu ministers are anxiously awaiting the day next week when they will be called in for meetings with Netanyahu to learn which roles they will have in the next government. There is concern that the demand of Lapid and Bennett to reduce the number of ministerial positions will prevent many of them from receiving the roles they had hoped for. Some may not even get any ministerial position at all.
Coalition negotiations between Likud-Beytenu, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi were set to continue on Tuesday. In addition to demanding the foreign affairs portfolio for Lapid and the finance portfolio for Bennett (which Likud-Beytenu officials did not rule out them receiving), Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi will also seek additional portfolios, such as education; industry, trade, and labor; and religious services, among others.
Netanyahu will insist on reserving the foreign affairs portfolio for Avigdor Lieberman if he is able to return as a minister following the legal proceedings against him. Lieberman, who served as foreign minister in the last government until stepping down in December, has refused to give up on the foreign affairs portfolio and has even declined an offer to serve as defense minister.
Meanwhile, Shas MK Yakov Margi promised on Monday to make life difficult for a Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett government that doesn't include the haredim.
"Lapid asked where the money is and we will show him where it is," Margi said.
"Habayit Hayehudi ... has put the land of Israel first, the people of Israel second and the Torah of Israel third," Margi said. "We will turn this around — the Torah of Israel first, the people of Israel second and the land of Israel third."
Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen spoke out on Monday against settlements in Judea and Samaria.
"[Habayit Hayehudi] talks about equalizing the [enlistment] burden but they produce the security, diplomatic and economic burden," Cohen said. "Migron is a burden, Givat Ulpana is a burden ... that add tens of millions [of shekels] to the economic and security burden."
Also on Monday, two prominent haredi journalists, Yaakov Rivlin and Avi Blum, for the first time called for a boycott of goods from Judea and Samaria. "The time has come to stop being suckers," they said.