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Israeli Coalition Is Formed, as Yesh Atid, Habayit Hayehudi Sign Agreement

Coalition formed one day before extension due to expire; Netanyahu to advise Peres Saturday evening; Bennett: We promised to return Jewish spirit to the state, now we have the tools to do it.

Ending a week of turbulent coalition negotiations, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi signed an agreement to join the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday afternoon. With the parties signing the agreement, Israel's coalition was formed one day before the extension granted to Netanyahu by the president was due to expire.

5:34 P.M. Under the coalition agreement, when the Knesset first convenes, it will be presented with the principles regarding changes to the government starting with the 20th Knesset. Those changes include reducing the maximum number of ministers to 18, including the prime minister, and the number of deputy ministers will not exceed four. The role of ministers without portfolio will be canceled and the voting threshold will rise from 2 to 4 percent.

5:07 P.M. Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett responds on his Facebook page to the signing of the coalition agreement, writing "With G-d's help, we have signed. The 33rd government of Israel is on its way. I wish for Prime Minister Netanyahu, and all of us, government ministers, to remember that we are representatives of the public, committed to all the people of Israel, and to all the citizens of Israel."

4:58 P.M. Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid attends meeting with outgoing Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who he will replace in the new government.

4:20 P.M. Netanyahu welcomes the coalition agreement, saying "We will work together in a new government with cooperation for the sake of all Israel's citizens. We will work to strengthen the security of the State of Israel and to improve the quality of life for Israeli citizens." Netanyahu will attend the president's residence on Saturday evening to officially inform President Shimon Peres that he has completed the task of forming a coalition.

4:04 P.M. Coalition agreement between Yesh Atid and Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu is signed.

3:25 P.M. Sources close to the negotiations say Yesh Atid will sign the coalition agreement in the coming hour.

2:58 P.M. Habayit Hayehudi signs agreement to join Netanyahu-led coalition. Naftali Bennett says in statement, "We promised during the elections to take care of the cost of living, to increase economic competitiveness and to return the Jewish spirit to the state - and now we have got the tools for this. This is the government of big opportunity - and we will not miss it. Next week we start working - all of us together."

Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid and Naftali Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi had said Friday morning that they would agree to sign the agreement.

Bennett balked on Thursday at signing the agreement with Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu upon learning that Netanyahu did not plan to make Bennett and Lapid deputy prime ministers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett on Thursday night, and appealed to him to sign the agreement according to conditions set earlier by the party. Bennett agreed. 

According to the final deal reached by the parties, Bennett will head the ministerial committee for cost of living, economic centralization and increasing competitiveness. Yesh Atid, meanwhile, will head a joint Knesset committee on the universal Israel Defense Forces draft.

Likud said the third Netanyahu government would not have any deputy or vice prime ministers titles that confer no extra benefits or responsibilities. But Bennett insisted that this decision violated an understanding with his party.

If Netanyahu stays firm, his new government would be the first in 50 years without a deputy prime minister.

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