In the election on Jan. 22, Israelis who wanted Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the next government were divided into three groups. The first group consisted of Likud-Beytenu voters. The second group was made up of Shas voters (Shas included a picture of Netanyahu in its campaign ads). And the third group was comprised of Habayit Heyudi voters. During the final days of the campaign, Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, fearing a leakage of votes to Likud-Beytenu, even presented a picture of himself next to one of Netanyahu.
Since the election, something went wrong. Habayit Hayehudi officials are ready to join the coalition, but apparently only if Shas is left out. Habayit Hayehudi has not said this explicitly, but its blood oath with Yesh Atid sends this message.
Habayit Hayehudi officials have several explanations for the alliance with Yair Lapid's party, which was not even hinted at before the election. Their main claim is that Netanyahu refused to bring Habayit Hayehudi into the government and pushed Bennett into Lapid's arms. A historical view of the facts may prove this claim to be correct. Netanyahu shunned Bennett and called him for talks last. The personal aspect of the charged Netanyahu-Bennett relationship cannot be ignored. The bottom line, which is that Netanyahu may establish a government without the nationalist camp as its anchor, does not matter.
According to reports published on Saturday, Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid have formulated a joint enlistment proposal, under which up to 2,000 haredim would be granted draft exemptions, an increase from Lapid's demand of 400 exemptions. In the past, Habayit Hayehudi vehemently opposed setting a limit for draft exemptions.
By the way, national-religious yeshivas are in the same boat as ultra-Orthodox yeshivas.
While most students in national-religious yeshivas do full or partial military service, draft deferrals were made possible by the same law that enabled draft deferrals for the ultra-Orthodox. More than 2,000 students graduate from national-religious yeshivas each year. Habayit Hayehudi officials confirmed that the party was working on an enlistment proposal, but said that nothing had been finalized.
Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich suggested on Saturday that she, not Lapid, would be the opposition leader. Yet the interesting thing is that she detailed the differences between her and Netanyahu. Perhaps she was hinting to Netanyahu the areas where he could move toward her positions, which would melt her opposition to joining the government. Then again, maybe not.