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Likud, United Torah Judaism parties sign interim agreement as Netanyahu tries to secure coalition before deadline

The other ultra-Orthodox party, Shas, remains the major holdout in coalition talks

United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni (left) and Yitzhak Goldknopf (right) sign an interim coalition deal with Likud negotiator Yariv Levin, Dec. 6, 2022. (Courtesy)

Last night, Israel’s Likud and United Torah Judaism political parties signed a preliminary agreement setting roles for UTJ lawmakers in the new government being formed by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The agreement between the leading Likud party and its coalition partner gives UTJ two ministers, three deputy ministers and four Knesset committee chairpersons. UTJ chairman Yitzhak Goldknopf will become minister of Construction and Housing, which includes the Israel Land Authority; Meir Porush will be made minister of Jerusalem and Heritage; and Moshe Gafni would become chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. 

The two parties continue to discuss issues of principle and ideology, with UTJ pushing for gender segregation at public events and in public transportation. 

Netanyahu has until Dec. 11 to reach a final coalition agreement that represents a ruling majority of at least 61 Knesset seats. If he requests an extension from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Netanyahu will have to explain why he needs more time to draw the parties into the coalition. Otherwise, he will have to convince Herzog that he needs an extension in order to pass legislation that has been demanded before finalizing coalition agreements. 

While Herzog is widely expected to agree to a request for more time, it is not known how much he will give the Likud lawmaker. 

Several coalition parties have requested the same government portfolios, and a final agreement would require settling those disputes. Furthermore, Shas, the second largest party in the expected coalition, has not yet reached an agreement with Likud. Shas chairman Aryeh Deri is prevented from sitting in the Knesset due to a suspended jail sentence for tax fraud earlier this year. 

Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said Herzog should reject any request from Netanyahu for more time. The former Likud member claimed that the request would be disingenuous and designed to allow the incoming coalition to pass “problematic personal laws” demanded by coalition members. 

On Tuesday, Sa’ar wrote on social media that even the fact coalition members voted together to replace the Knesset speaker demonstrates “that the government has been constructed.” 

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

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