Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and potential coalition partners Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett successfully crossed the last hurdle in talks on forming a new government, which may be presented on Sunday, Israeli media reported.
The breakthrough in the talks, which have been underway since January 23, was reached on Thursday when Lapid and Bennett – leaders of the Yesh Atid and Jewish Home parties, respectively – agreed to back down on their demand for the largely ceremonious title of deputy premier, Army Radio reported.
This was the last of the issues that needed to be resolved before the coalition agreement could be signed, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Bennett and Lapid agreed to surrender the titles "out of respect for the prime minister," the Post reported, adding that the new government under Netanyahu was expected to be sworn in on Sunday, the deadline for a new government.
Failure to arrive at an agreement could lead president Shimon Peres to select another politician to form a government, or could lead to new elections.
Likud Beytenu negotiator Moshe Leon told Channel 2 News on Thursday night that he was confident that an agreement would be signed on Friday.
“We’ve been talking about the issues for six weeks, and this topic [deputy premiers] only came up once. When it’s time to sign, they can’t just complain about this,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday at a Likud Beytenu faction meeting, Netanyahu said the job of building a coalition was nearly complete, and that the party got the “most important portfolios” -- foreign and defense.