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Israel's Netanyahu moves closer to forming government

  • 8 Dec 2022

Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has secured a parliamentary majority after his Likud party said it had reached an agreement with the Jewish ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

The agreement with Shas gives Netanyahu control over 64 of the Knesset's 120 seats, though a final coalition deal has yet to be signed. ( Ronen Zvulun / Reuters )

Israel's prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has struck a deal with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party on allocating cabinet jobs in a key step towards forming a government ahead of a looming deadline.

The deal announced on Thursday promises the Shas party five ministerial jobs in Netanyahu's incoming government, which is expected to be the most far right-wing in Israel's history. 

"We have achieved another step towards forming a government," said Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving premier, whose victory in November 1 election set him up to retake power after just 14 months in opposition.
Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party has already signed coalition deals with three controversial extreme right parties.

Likud's agreements with Shas and another ultra-Orthodox bloc, United Torah Judaism, are provisional, not binding coalition deals. Additional pacts will be required before a government is announced, the parties have said.

One complication is that Shas leader Aryeh Deri has been convicted of tax offences, which, according to Israel's attorney general, bars him from serving in cabinet.

Israel's parliament, where Netanyahu and his allies now control a majority, may seek to pass legislation allowing Deri to serve in cabinet before firming up a coalition deal.

Under the Shas-Likud deal, Deri will be both interior minister and health minister in Netanyahu's next government, in addition to being named deputy prime minister.

If confirmed, Deri would become Israel's first ultra-Orthodox Jewish deputy premier.

READ MORE: Exit polls show Netanyahu's bloc ahead in Israel elections

Complex talks

Some Israeli political analysts had forecast that Netanyahu would move to announce a coalition days after receiving his mandate from President Isaac Herzog on November 13.

But the coalition talks have proved complex, with Netanyahu forced to give sensitive portfolios to controversial figures, including Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben Gvir, who has been promised the national security ministry with responsibility for the border police in the occupied West Bank despite his fiercely anti-Palestinian rhetoric.

Netanyahu's 28-day mandate from Herzog expires at midnight (2200 GMT) Sunday.

He is widely expected to seek a two-week extension, as several issues remain unresolved, including the allocation of portfolios within his own Likud party, according to Israeli media reports.

READ MORE: Far-right extremist Ben-Gvir to be Israel's national security minister

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