Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu agree on coalition deal
Lieberman to be appointed foreign minister; his party will likely receive 4 additional portfolios.
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu was speeding up his coalition negotiations and, close to midnight Sunday, initialed an agreement with Yisrael Beiteinu.
Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman is expected to be appointed foreign minister, while the party's MK Yitzhak Aharonovitch is due to become internal security minister. Yisrael Beiteinu will also receive the tourism, infrastructure and immigrant absorption portfolios, as well as chairmanship of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which will headed by MK David Rotem.
Lieberman backed down on his earlier condition that Prof. Daniel Friedmanm remain justice minister, and compromised by agreeing to the appointment of Yaakov Neeman to the post. Neeman and Lieberman were said to share a "long-time mutual appreciation" of each other.
Yisrael Beiteinu is seen to have agreed to considerable compromises on many of the issues it had championed during its campaign, including civil unions, a solution to Jewish conversion problems and changes in the system of government.
The agreement with Netanyahu is to include a clause saying that it is valid only for a narrow government, the expansion of which would necessitate a new arrangement.
The negotiations were conducted on two tracks, one involving personal daily telephone conversations between Netanyahu and Lieberman, the other through negotiating teams. The latter contacts were particularly helpful in smoothing out differences on matters of religion and state that might have caused a rift with Shas.
Meetings were scheduled to take place Monday with the Shas negotiating team, to flesh out the final details of an agreement, including allocation of portfolios to the religious party.
As the initial deadline allowed to Netanyahu to form a government was fast approaching, speculation was rife whether a national unity government was still possible.
Sources close to the prime minister-designate said he intends to complete negotiations by Thursday or next Monday at the latest; some sources believe the rush to form a right-wing government might be another means to pull Kadima, and possibly even Labor, into the coalition.