Tel Aviv — Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has successfully assembled a government, after almost six weeks of tense negotiations and pushing up against his deadline on Saturday.
Three parties will serve alongside his Likud-Beiteinu faction: the new centrist Yesh Atid, the staunchly pro-settler Jewish Home, and the Tzipi Livni’s dovish party, known in Hebrew as Hatnua. The government will have the loyalty of 68 of the Knesset’s 120 seats — a smaller majority than Netanyahu wanted.
The coalition deal, which will be finalized later today barring any last minute hiccups, is a highly unusual one for Israel, because it excludes ultra-Orthodox parties, which have been sidelined after propping up governments for decades.
Their exclusion is a result of Yesh Atid’s election success, which catapulted the brand new party in to the Knesset as the chamber’s second largest. Having promised voters that it would work to draft Haredim into the army, it argued that having Haredi parties inside the government would derail its plan, and refused to serve alongside Haredim. Jewish Home also made this demand as part of a strategic pact it forged with Yesh Atid.
While the coalition negotiations began with a focus on issues and principles, in the past few days matters like the Haredi draft took a back seat to discussions on who should serve in what ministry and how large the cabinet would be. And many Israelis are disappointed because they had hoped that the inclusion of a centrist and a dovish party would bring moderation to the country’s two most important ministries.
Netanyahu is holding the Foreign Minister portfolio for Avigdor Lieberman, the hard-right Likud-Beiteinu politician who is unpopular in the international community. Lieberman is currently on trial for fraud and breach of trust, but is expected to return to the ministry if the verdict allows him to do so.
And the Defense Ministry, the address for day-to-day and strategic decisions regarding the West Bank, will go to Moshe Ya’alon, a former military Chief of Staff who thinks that the two-state option is a lost cause, and has said that anybody who sees a solution on the horizon is engaging in “self-deception” and promoting a “golden calf.” He made these comments in an interview in June, during which he said that the conflict is currently a “problem with no solution” and it is conceivable there could be a million settlers in the West Bank.