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Likud, Shas reach agreement as coalition deadline approaches

Party leader Aryeh Deri – twice convicted of tax fraud – will be Israel’s deputy prime minister, interior minister and serve as health minister and finance minister in a rotation

Likud and Shas negotiators signing coalition agreement. (Photo courtesy)

Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party signed an agreement outlining the Shas party’s roles in the new government. 

According to the agreement – shortly before midnight on Wednesday – Shas chairman Aryeh Deri will be Israel’s deputy prime minister throughout the government’s term. He will serve as interior minister and health minister during the first half of the term and finance minister in the second half, taking over the position from Religious Zionism Party chairman Bezalel Smotrich – a compromise between the demands of the two parties. 

In addition, the agreement gives Shas the Ministry of Religious Services and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security, as well as room at the table in the Ministry of Education. Shas is the second-largest party in the coalition after Likud. 

The agreement assumes Deri will be able to serve as a minister despite two previous convictions for fraud and breach of trust. If Central Election Committee chairman, Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Amit, rules that the actions which led to his prior conviction constitute moral turpitude, Deri will be legally barred from serving as a minister for seven years. 

All agreements so far have excluded members of Netanyahu's Likud party who are still awaiting their own portfolios.

According to a report from Kan News, a conversation between Netanyahu and ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism Knesset Member Moshe Gafni ended in shouting. “Because of you, we haven’t formed a government,” the Likud chairman said.

UTJ is opposed to the Draft Law, which would require yeshiva students to participate in the military draft. Israelis are required to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces or in national service roles following high school.

Netanyahu has until Sunday to announce a final agreement with coalition partners or to submit a formal request for an extension. An extension would give him time to pursue certain legal amendments which would, among other things, allow Deri to serve as a minister and pursue immunity for himself in his ongoing legal battles. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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