Likud officials are denying any meaningful progress in the negotiation for a coalition government, but recent reports on the situation suggest that the driving force in the negotiations may be President Obama’s March visit.
Likud sources say that Yesh Atid is vital for a partner to sell the idea of Israel being serious about peace talks, and Yair Lapid seems to be negotiating from a position of strength. Tzipi Livni, once considered “unacceptable” by Netanyahu for her criticisms, is also seen as a useful show partner for the Obama visit.
On the other side of the equation, the shoe-in partner, Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, is on the outside looking in, with no meetings with Likud leadership yet and a growing sense that his inclusion as part of the secular far-right would be unseemly, and his exclusion might make a useful gesture toward the US.
Jewish Home is also complaining of “disrespect” in that Netanyahu has met with and called Arab and Leftist parties but has mostly spurned Bennett, his former Chief of Staff with whom he is not on good terms. Though considered “inevitable” as part of a coalition, Netanyahu does not appear to be making it easy.