In long conversations taking place in the last few days – some of them behind closed doors – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has put before opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog a proposition which debkafile’s political sources are calling the “Deal of the Century.” It would be radical enough to toss out the traditional lines polarizing the “rightwing” and “leftwing” political camps and reshuffle them in a different order – that is if Herzog says yes.
According to our sources the offer the prime minister has put on the table – either directly or through emissaries – includes seven of the most powerful government portfolios, including foreign affairs, finance, housing, internal security, justice and communications.
(Netanyahu addressed the Labor Party leader rather than the twin leaders of the Zionist Union – Herzog and Tzipi Livni – reluctant to restore the latter to his cabinet, although if pressed, he would not make this an obstacle.)
To free up the cabinet posts on offer, the prime minister is ready to drop two of the parties who joined his coalition after the March general election: Habayit Hayehudi and its leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett; and Kulani, whose leader Moshe Kahlon Netanyahu judges is not up to scratch for the job he holds as finance minister. He takes the same view of Housing Minister Yoav Galant from the same party.
Our sources report that Netanyahu wrapped his gift horse up in an offer to rewrite the unity government’s guidelines to include a new policy that would also promote negotiations with the Palestinians. In a word, he proposes the reorientation of his Likud towards the center and suggests that Herzog meet him halfway by pulling his party back from its left-wing politics.
Herzog has not rejected Netanyahu’s proposition out of hand and they are still talking.
The portfolios the prime minister has put on the table to date are as follows:
For Herzog, Deputy and Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs which is currently held by Netanyahu. The Labor leader, who lined up strongly with the prime minister in condemning the nuclear deal with Iran, would be just the man for the job of repairing his dysfunctional ties with Washington.
Livni may be allowed to return to the Justice Ministry, if she is part of the arrangement.
The other cabinet posts on offer will be up to Herzog to hand out to his party. They include either Finance or Economy. Whichever of the two portfolios Labor chooses, it will also gain a deputy ministerial post in the alternative ministry.
Also thrown in for a deal are Deputy Defense Minister with executive powers, Internal Security (in place of Likud’s Gilead Erdan); and Communications.
Jerusalem was buzzing this week about the prospect of a unity government. Both the prime minister and the Labor leader denied negotiations were afoot.
To smooth way for Herzog to bring his party round to the plan, Netanyahu proposes an orderly process. He would notify President Reuven Rivlin of his government’s resignation, after which the two party leaders would announce their decision to join hands in a national emergency administration to meet the threats arising from the Six-Power nuclear accord with Iran.
President Rivlin is very much in favor of a unity government.
The prime minister would urge doing away with the months of horse-trading that normally accompany an Israel coalition agreement and set out all the new government’s guiding principles on one page.
Will Netanyahu manage to leverage the Iran nuclear accord into providing him with a durable cabinet with a more stable majority than the 61 seats he garnered in the last election? And will Herzog seize this opportunity to end his party’s long drawn-out exile in opposition?
Nothing is settled yet.