Likud and Shas leaders signed a preliminary coalition agreement in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu now has preliminary agreements with all of the parties in his right-wing coalition. The deals allow Netanyahu to begin distributing other cabinet positions and Knesset committee appointments to members of the Likud.
Under the agreement signed with Shas, party leader Aryeh Deri will receive the Health and Interior ministries. After two years, Deri will rotate into Finance Minister. The agreement also names Deri as Deputy Prime Minister. Shas will also receive Ministry of Religious Services, and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security. In addition, Shas will get a minister in the Education ministry and a second minister in the Interior ministry.
Netanyahu has until Sunday to finalize the coalition agreements with his partners, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit and Noam and present his government to the Knesset for approval. If an agreement is not reached in time, Netanyahu is expected to ask President Isaac Herzog for a two-week extension.
The extension is significant because the Knesset will have to pass legislation enabling Deri to become a cabinet minister. Deri resigned from the Knesset in January as part of a plea agreement in which he admitted to two tax offenses, paid a fine of 180,000 shekels ($52,000). He was given a suspended jail sentence, but current laws do not allow him to take a cabinet post.
Further complicating Netanyahu’s ability to meet the Sunday deadline is that a new Knesset Speaker has not yet been chosen to replace Mickey Levy. The Knesset traditionally chooses a new speaker when it is sworn in. That vote is scheduled for Monday.
A presidential extension is customarily given, but outgoing Justice and Transportation Ministers Gideon Saar and Merav Michaeli respectively called on Herzog not to grant it. They argue that Netanyahu has already reached the necessary understandings but is delaying matters in order to first pass a series of what Saar called “problematic laws” Likud’s coalition partners are insisting on.