Naftali Bennett and his Habayit Hayehudi party agreed Wednesday night to join the coalition, allowing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce the formation of a new government shortly before the coalition deadline expired at midnight.
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“There is a government in Israel,” Bennett, who will be appointed education minister in the next government, said during a joint announcement with Netanyahu. “It’s not a government for people on the right or the left or the center, but for all the people of Israel.”
“We are behind you,” Bennett told the prime minister. “We will work with all our might for the success of the state and the government you head, because we have no other country. This government will be able to finish out its term. We will roll up our sleeves to make it happen.”
MK Zeev Elkin, a member of the Likud negotiating team, said the two parties would work through the night to resolve minor issues and finalize the coalition agreement.
The 34th government, the fourth one led by Netanyahu, will scrape by with a bare majority of 61 MKs out of 120, which will make it difficult to advance the ambitious agenda that many of its members have set for it.
“To a great extent, Netanyahu didn’t succeed in forming a government, but has bought time to form a different government,” said one political observer. Likud sources said outright they would seek to expand the coalition over the next few months by including Zionist Union or Yisrael Beiteinu, or by trying to co-opt members of parties such as Yesh Atid, Zionist Union or Yisrael Beiteinu to support a new coalition.
“Sixty-one is a good number,” Netanyahu said last night. “Sixty-one-plus is an even better number. It begins with 61. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog, who heads Zionist Union, criticized the deal on his Facebook page, saying the deal shows how little Netanyahu cares for the wellbeing of Israeli citizens and accusing him of running a “fire sale” of government positions, just for his political survival.
The announcement of the Habayit Hayehudi deal followed arduous negotiations that ended with Netanyahu capitulating to Bennett’s demands and agreeing to name Ayelet Shaked justice minister.
Shaked, a Habayit Hayehudi lawmaker, will also chair the powerful Ministerial Committee for Legislation and the Judicial Appointments Committee. She is also expected to head Justice Ministry when the next attorney general is appointed.
Habayit Hayehudi will also get the chairmanship of the Knesset Law and Constitution committee, giving the party unprecedented control over the legal system.
In addition, MK Uri Ariel will become agriculture minister, giving Habayit Hayehudi control over the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division, which is used to fund infrastructure for West Bank settlements. He will also be responsible for Bedouin affairs.
The party will also be allowed to name a deputy defense minister from its ranks.