Just three days before deadline, Netanyahu signs preliminary agreement with Shas.
By World Israel News Staff
The Likud and the haredi Shas party signed a preliminary coalition deal before dawn Thursday, with a finalized agreement expected within days.
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu must secure Shas’ support by the Sunday deadline, or request a two-week extension from President Isaac Herzog.
Thursday morning’s agreement delineates the positions the Shas party will receive in the new Netanyahu government, ending a week-long impasse in negotiations.
Shas party chairman MK Aryeh Deri will serve both as Interior Minister and Health Minister, as well as Deputy Prime Minister.
Midway through the government’s term, Deri will rotate out as Interior Minister and Health Minister, becoming Finance Minister – a position which will initially be held by Religious Zionist Party chief MK Bezalel Smotrich. Smotrich will serve the second half of the government’s term as Interior Minister.
The Shas party will also receive the Religious Services Ministry portfolio, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs portfolio, with two additional Shas lawmakers to be appointed as ministers within the Education Ministry and the Interior Ministry respectively.
The details of the full authorities granted to the Shas ministers within the Education and Interior ministries have yet to be finalized, and are expected to be included in a final coalition agreement.
“I thank my partner, Aryeh Deri, for putting together the agreement,” Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu said after the signing Thursday.
“Tonight we completed another step towards the formation of a right-wing government that will work on behalf and for the benefit of all the citizens of Israel.”
While Thursday’s agreement settles most of the outstanding issues between Shas and the Likud, the two sides must still resolve the legal challenges to Deri serving as a minister.
As part of a plea bargain in the previous Knesset, Deri was convicted of tax crimes, and could be barred from serving as a minister on the grounds of moral turpitude.
Shas has demanded that the Likud pass legislation ensuring Deri’s right to serve as a minister before a new government is formed.
To that end, this week, the Likud began the process of replacing the Knesset Speaker, a necessary step in passing legislation which could face opposition from the outgoing Lapid government.
Once Shas’ support has been secured, the Likud will need to reach a final agreement with the United Torah Judaism party.
On Tuesday, the Likud and UTJ signed a preliminary deal, laying out the positions the haredi party is to receive in the new government.
The two factions within UTJ – the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael and the non-Hasidic Degel HaTorah – remain at odds over the details of how UTJ’s demand for an amendment to the Draft Law be addressed in a full coalition agreement.