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Speculation grows over advanced Netanyahu-Herzog coalition talks

Israeli media reports have increased speculation that advanced talks are taking place between the prime minister and the opposition over expanding the coalition.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government enjoys a razor-thin majority of just a single Knesset seat. Should Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union, the largest opposition party join the government, it would hand Netanyahu significant breathing space.

With the Knesset returning for the summer session next week, it is thought that the talks will come to a head in the coming days. Today Israel Hayom leads with the headline: “Approaching a decision”. Several reports say that the two leaders met until late last night. However, Israel Radio news says that many points of disagreement remain, including over portfolios. In addition, the Zionist Union opposes several legislative initiatives currently supported by the government, as well as key disagreements over the peace process.

Nonetheless, both Netanyahu and Herzog gave similar, instant endorsement yesterday of Egyptian President al-Sisi’s plea to reignite peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Maariv’s Ben Caspit and Yediot Ahronot’s Smadar Peri both suggest this morning that al-Sisi’s comments were coordinated with Netanyahu and Herzog. Channel Ten even speculated last night that Netanyahu and Herzog could travel together to Cairo to meet al-Sisi in order to both reignite the peace process and pave the way for the Zionist Union to join Netanyahu’s government.

However, it would appear that Herzog still has much work to do in order to convince some of his party’s senior MKs to support joining the coalition. Herzog critics include Shelly Yachimovich and Erel Margalit, while fellow MK Mickey Rosenthal has said: “There is a real danger that the Labour Party will unravel under Herzog’s leadership.” Yediot Ahronot reports, however, that Herzog has the support of Eitan Cabel MK and importantly the powerful Histadrut workers’ union. The same report says that Herzog could call a meeting of the Labour Party Convention next week to vote on a proposal to join the government.