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Netanyahu moves closer to forming a government after reaching coalition deal with Religious Zionism party

IsraelEdited By: Anamica SinghUpdated: Dec 02, 2022, 04:05 AM IST
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The deal hands Netanyahu control of 46 of the Knesset's 120 seats so far. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Netanyahu's right-wing alliance had won a comfortable victory in a November 1 election, the country's fifth in less than four years.

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has reached a coalition deal with the far-right Religious Zionism party, Netanyahu's Likud party said on Thursday. This brings him closer to setting up a new government after last month's election. Religious Zionism will be given control of the Finance Ministry as part of a rotation, Likud said. However, it did not clarify how will the rotation work. The deal hands Netanyahu control of 46 of the Knesset's 120 seats so far.

According to Israel's Army Radio, head of Religious Zionism, Bezalel Smotrich, 42, will serve as finance minister initially before being replaced later. It will also be given the immigration ministry and a "national missions" portfolio.

His party will be given authority over Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank in coordination with Netanyahu, the Likud statement said. Notably, the Likud party opposes Palestinian statehood and supports extending Israeli sovereignty into the West Bank.

An estimated 475,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank in communities considered illegal under international law, alongside some 2.9 million Palestinians.

"This is another significant step bringing us closer to forming a right-wing, nationalist government that will look out for all Israeli citizens," Netanyahu said.

However, he still needs to bring two ultra-Orthodox parties into his future government to secure a majority. 

Netanyahu's right-wing alliance had won a comfortable victory in a November 1 election, the country's fifth in less than four years.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in a 1967 war. Palestinians wants all these areas to create a state. After US-sponsored negotiations over the matter stalled in 2014, expansion of settlements has continued despite international opposition.

Smotrich is better known for his nationalistic politics than his economic views. He contested together with far-right ally Itamar Ben-Gvir, though they now head separate factions in Knesset.

Netanyahu has promised Ben-Gvir the National Security Ministry, a newly created portfolio with powers over police in Israel and the West Bank. Smotrich served briefly in a previous Netanyahu-led government as transportation minister from 2019-2020. He advocates conservative fiscal policies like lowering the debt-to-GDP ratio.

(With inputs from agencies)


 

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