New hardline Israeli government set for swearing in

2015-05-07 19:29
(Oded Balilty, AP)

(Oded Balilty, AP)

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Tel Aviv - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks set to swear in his new, hardline right-wing government next week, after signing a final coalition deal on Thursday with a nationalist party, thus securing a slim majority in parliament.

Netanyahu's coalition of five parties that are right-wing, ultra-Orthodox Jewish or both will have 61 of the 120 members of the Knesset. If all goes to plan and the government is sworn in on Monday, this will be the prime minister's fourth term.

The Haaretz newspaper reported that, as part of an 11th hour deal, the Jewish Home party would get the justice ministry as well as the agriculture portfolio, which would give the hardline group control over budgets for the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Talks pushed up against a deadline which had been set to expire on Wednesday at midnight. The pressure was on after Netanyahu's former foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, pulled out of the coalition, giving the Jewish Home an unexpected upper hand in the negotiations because Netanyahu would have been unable to form a government without them.

The party has also insisted on passing a new law which could limit the activity of civil society groups critical of the government and receiving foreign funding.

Exceeding predictions, Netanyahu's right-wing, nationalist Likud won 30 seats in the March 17 election, but he was still forced to form a coalition, as has always been the case in Israel's political system, which includes many small parties.

This would be the most openly right-wing coalition in recent times, lacking a party insisting on peace talks with the Palestinians.

"The new government of Netanyahu, which is a narrow right-wing one, is against peace and [will] lead the region to more violence, bloodshed and radicalism," said Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian official in charge of peace negotiations with Israel.

Erekat was especially critical of the appointment of Ayelet Shaked from the Jewish Home party to the post of justice minister, recalling that she posted an article on Facebook last year which referred to Palestinian children as "little snakes."

Shaked later denied she approved of indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians, as the article had suggested.

New Jewish homes

Meanwhile, a Jerusalem planning committee appeared to have taken steps towards authorising 900 new Jewish housing units in the eastern part of the city, which Palestinians see as their future capital.

The anti-settlement group Peace Now said the new coalition threatens to increase the "international isolation" of Israel and would not be good for the Arab minority in the country, which makes up 20% of the population.

Netanyahu's last government ran into conflicts with President Barack Obama's administration on the topic of settlements and Israel's opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran.

He also ran into trouble after rejecting the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the March 17 elections, though he later tried to walk back the remarks.

Isaac Herzog, the head of the Labour Party, which is now set to head the opposition, slammed the new coalition, which he said was "the most narrow in the history of Israel."

As part of the deal with the ultra-Orthodox party, Netanyahu also reportedly agreed to rescind moves made during his last term which would have allowed the state to jail young religious people who refuse to be drafted to the army.

It has also been previously agreed that Moshe Kahlon from the pro-business Kulanu party would serve as the next finance minister. He had overseen the deregulation in the telecommunications sector during a previous government.

The post of foreign minister remains vacant for the time being.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel

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