Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Kahlon will meet Thursday morning for coalition-building talks amid reports the prime minister is pushing for Kahlon’s four-seat Kulanu to merge into his Likud party.
The meeting will take place at the prime minister’s private residence in the northern town of Caesarea.
However، Kahlon is reportedly cooling on the idea of a merger between the parties، Channel 13 news reported Wednesday.
Sources close to the Kulanu leader told the outlet that Kahlon will not raise the possibility of a merger during his meeting with the premier، and will not agree to it if offered.
On Monday، Channel 13 news reported Netanyahu had been mulling offering Kahlon the post of foreign minister، a high-profile position that he kept for himself during his previous term، and had made the offer in a telephone call on Sunday.
However، Kahlon، who served as finance minister in the outgoing government، is believed to be insisting on holding on to that position، the report said.
The two leaders haven’t met since the April 9 election، though Netanyahu has sat down with all the other parties he hopes to fold into his coalition، namely Yisrael Beytenu، United Torah Judaism، Shas، and the Union of Right-Wing Parties.
If a Likud-Kulanu merger goes ahead، it could boost Netanyahu’s battle against corruption allegations.
Kahlon had said until recently that he would not support the prime minister remaining in office if he is charged in the three corruption cases in which he is facing indictment pending a hearing. Political analysts said Thursday that Netanyahu would be unlikely to approve a merger with Kahlon if the finance minister was still standing by that position.
Kahlon cut his teeth as a Likud politician، passing popular reforms as communications minister before leaving the party and taking a break from politics amid rumors of tensions with Netanyahu. He founded Kulanu in 2015، becoming the most senior partner in the Netanyahu-led government with 10 seats.
If he enters the new coalition، Kulanu’s current four seats will make it the smallest party in the government. Despite his poorer showing، Kahlon is insisting on keeping the Finance Ministry for himself and having MK Eli Cohen stay on as economy minister.
The demands of Kulanu، which has focused on economic issues، are thought to pale in comparison to tougher negotiations expected with the other likely coalition partners.
On Sunday، negotiators for Yisrael Beytenu and Likud met for the first round of coalition negotiations، with the former presenting a list of demands on security، immigration، and religion and state issues.
The sides failed to come to any agreement and said they would meet again at a later date.
The most thorny issue is expected to be legislation regulating — and limiting — exemptions to military conscription for ultra-Orthodox students، which the secularist Liberman is insisting should be passed without amendment، while ultra-Orthodox parties have said they will not join the coalition if it is advanced without changes.