Benjamin Netanyahu Clinches 68-Seat Israel Coalition Deal

Bennett and Lapid On Board; Ultra-Orthodox Excluded

Benjamin Netanyahu wins agreement for a coalition government that will exclude Isael’s ultra-Orthodox parties.
getty images
Benjamin Netanyahu wins agreement for a coalition government that will exclude Isael’s ultra-Orthodox parties.

By Reuters

Published March 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clinched deals for a coalition government on Thursday reflecting a shift to the centre in Israel and a domestic agenda that has shunted peacemaking with Palestinians to the sidelines.

In control of 68 of parliament’s 120 seats, the right-wing leader’s new administration is expected to take office next week, just days before a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, his first to Israel since entering the White House.

“There is a government,” said Noga Katz, a spokeswoman for Netanyahu’s Likud party, citing agreements with the centrist Yesh Atid and far-right Jewish Home parties as well as with a smaller faction led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

Netanyahu’s long-time partners, ultra-Orthodox parties effectively blackballed by Yesh Atid and Jewish Home over social benefits and military draft exemptions for religious Jews, will not be in the new coalition born of a Jan. 22 parliamentary election.

The exclusion of the religious parties represents a dramatic political change for an increasingly inward-looking Israel after the surprisingly strong ballot box showings by Yesh Atid, led by former TV news anchor Yair Lapid, and Jewish Home, headed by high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett.

Although Lapid, has advocated a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians stalled since 2010, his party’s second-place finish was a reflection of a renewed public focus on bread-and-butter issues such as the high cost of living.

“We came into politics specifically to influence health and welfare policies…the time has come to start working,” Yesh Atid lawmaker Adi Kol said on Israel’s Channel 10 television.

Public expectations are high that the new government could effect real change in what many Israelis see as state coddling of the ultra-Orthodox, whose welfare benefits and exemption from the military provide little incentive or opportunity to learn skills and contribute to the economy.

Netanyahu will turn his attention again to the Palestinian issue and Iran’s nuclear drive in his talks with Obama, with whom he has had a testy relationship. But U.S. officials have said Obama is not coming with any peace plan and expectations of any swift movement on the Israeli-Palestinian track are low.

“We hope that this Israeli government will choose peace and negotiations and not settlements and dictation,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

DEADLINE

Lapid and Bennett each said they expected to sign coalition deals with Netanyahu later in the day. Livni made her pact with the prime minister several weeks ago.

The agreements on Thursday were sealed before a March 16 deadline for Netanyahu to announce a new government. Yesh Atid said Lapid would become finance minister. Israeli media reported Bennett would get the trade and industry cabinet post.

Lapid, 49, gained wide backing among young, secular voters who helped fuel massive street protests in 2011 against high food and housing prices.

He and Bennett, 40, took kingmakers’ roles in the coalition bargaining by forming a negotiating alliance that frustrated Netanyahu’s efforts to retain his largely loyal ultra-Orthodox partners for his third term in office.

Bennett, who Israeli media said would get the industry and trade portfolio, rejects any future Palestinian state and has strong support among Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

But he has pledged not to be an obstacle to peace talks, saying that in any case, he does not believe they will achieve anything. Neither Bennett nor Lapid have spoken out in detail on how they would deal with the Iranian issue.

Palestinians have demanded Israel suspend construction in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which they seek, along with the Gaza Strip, for a future state.

Netanyahu has called on the Palestinians to return to the talks without preconditions. Most countries regard Israel’s settlements as illegal.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.