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Lapid, Bennett Agree to Join Israel's New Government

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After Thursday's last-minute glitch in coalition negotiations, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi agreed on Friday morning to sign an agreement to enter Israel's new government. 

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.

Three Habayit Hayehudi ministers will be in charge of five ministerial portfolios, including Industry and Trade, Housing and Construction, Senior Citizens, Religious Services and Information and Disapora. The party will also have two deputy ministers. The party committee will meet Sunday to approve the allocations. Habayit Hayehudi Knesset members will meet Saturday afternoon to get and update and approve the agreement. 

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

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.

In any case, Likud sources denied that the dispute threatened the formation of the new government. “We’re not at all worried. The coalition isn’t in danger. New elections aren’t in the offing,” said a senior Likud source.

Yair Lapid, left, and Naftali Bennett. Credit: Emil Salman

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