Thursday September 3, 2015
Israel Hayom
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For Netanyahu and Bennett, politics trump troubled relations
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Dan Margalit

The clock is ticking

Trifles and egoism have thus far delayed the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett. The Habayit Hayehudi chairman did the right thing when the opportunity arose, apologizing in a clear albeit embarrassed tone for a previous statement in which he joked that Netanyahu's wife, Sara, and he "completed a course in terrorism" together. It was this apology that paved the way for the meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon between the prime minister and Bennett, which should have occurred immediately after last month's election.

Habayit Hayehudi's current party lineup is the perfect match for Likud-Beytenu. The two factions hold almost identical views on the diplomacy issue. They share weaknesses and general beliefs. Bennett knows that Netanyahu will always revert to the formula of two states for two peoples, and the Habayit Hayehudi chairman will remain a loyal coalition partner as long as the government does not formally propose the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Shas may be a more convenient partner for Netanyahu — though more expensive to the state — but still, Habayit Hayehudi's diplomatic approach is more compatible with Likud-Beytenu than Shas' approach to the issue.

Thirty four days remain before the coalition has to be finalized. There is plenty of time but the clock is ticking. Negotiators must abandon stratagems in favor of substance. To use stratagem would be a futile attempt to square a circle. Likud-Beytenu must understand that though it is the biggest faction in the Knesset, it does not comprise a majority. The public only granted Likud-Beytenu 31 Knesset seats, and to achieve a sustainable coalition there must be more than 62 members. Therefore, Likud-Beytenu will not have the majority of ministerial portfolios. So what? No harm done.

The concern that one party could topple the government shouldn't affect coalition negotiators, because this is always the case. Even if the coalition comprises 75 MKs, Yesh Atid could still cause the government's collapse. So what? Yesh Atid is in no hurry to do so. They want to reap the benefits of serving in the government — the official cars and the excessive bodyguards. They're in no rush to relinquish these amenities.

So now is the time to start negotiating the issue of sharing the national burden (which involves imposing mandatory military or national service on the ultra-Orthodox, who until now enjoyed a blanket exemption). This issue can either be the key or the stumbling block to forming a coalition. Likud-Beytenu and its various potential partners, save Shas, each have their own proposed solution. Coalition negotiators would be wise to avoid trying to persuade any other party of the benefits of their own proposal. Instead, they need to combine the disparate viewpoints to concoct a formula that offers a little something for everybody, and which will make a viable government.

So, while conducting a serious negotiation, devoid of whims and fancies, Likud-Beytenu ought to forgo the easy solution of severing the Yesh Atid-Habayit Hayehudi partnership. It is better to usher both of these parties into the coalition as soon as possible. After that, Shas, Hatnuah and Kadima will be welcomed with great hospitality.

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