Israel’s Netanyahu Signs Deals with Centrist, Orthodox Parties

Israel’s hawkish prime minister is building his most right-wing government yet.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin of Israel attend an Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem, April 23
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin of Israel attend an Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem, April 23 (GPO/Kobi Gideon)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signed coalition deals with Orthodox Jewish parties and the centrist Kulanu, putting him on track to find a right-wing majority in parliament.

Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party won the election in March but fell short of an absolute majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

The hawkish leader, who said on the eve of the election that he could not imagine a Palestinian state being formed under his watch, previously governed with the support of liberals and right-wing nationalists.

Religious parties propped up his earlier governments and are unlikely to join a left-leaning coalition led by Labor instead.

Most right-wing

If Netanyahu adds Naftali Bennet’s nationalist Jewish Home and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu to his coalition, Israel would get its most right-wing government since Netanyahu first came to power in 1996.

Jewish Home draws most of its support from settlers and calls for the annexation of parts of the West Bank, the largest territory the Palestinians claim for their future state.

Like Yisrael Beiteinu, it is not interested in negotiations and calls for a hard line against the Islamist terror group Hamas, which controls the other Palestinian territory, Gaza.

Concessions

Kulanu won ten seats campaigning on cost-of-living issues, but given that it is led by a former Likud minister, Moshe Kahlon, it can be expected to toe the coalition’s line on national security.

Among the concessions Kulanu extracted was a raise in salaries for soldiers and the extension of unemployment insurance to the self-employed.

United Torah Judaism won a freeze in legislation that would have phased out the exemption for Orthodox Jews from military service as well reductions in cutbacks on child allowances and religious schools.

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