Formation of Netanyahu-led new gov’t unlikely this week – report

Although Netanyahu won a decisive victory, the distribution of ministerial portfolios and agreements on coalition terms with his partners is taking longer than initially expected.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu is unlikely to be able to form a new government by the end of this week, after widespread reports that he intended to present his coalition before the incoming Knesset will be sworn in this Tuesday.

Netanyahu and his allies won 64 seats, paving the way for a government coalition composed of the Likud party and three right-wing, religious factions. The decisive victory brought an end to Israel’s political gridlock, after nearly four years of inconclusive national elections.

But forming a government and creating agreements with the haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, and the Religious Zionism party, is taking longer than Netanyahu expected, an anonymous political source told Hebrew language radio station Kan Reshet Bet.

During coalition negotiations, political parties present their demands – such as budgeting power, additional funding, ministerial portfolios, and more – to the Prime Minister-elect, in exchange for agreeing to join the government and support its legislation.

According to reports, some parties are threatening to abandon the coalition, should they not receive written promises in advance regarding potential legislation and ministerial positions.

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The Religious Zionism party and the Shas party are in an intense competition to be awarded the Religious Affairs ministry, which controls Israel’s Rabbinate, Hebrew language outlet Maariv reported.

The Rabbinate is the sole authority in Israel responsible for appointing rabbis, facilitating marriages between Jews, granting Kosher certifications, and more critical roles related to Judaism.

Additionally, Religious Zionism Chair Betzalel Smotrich is reportedly demanding to be appointed Defense Minister.

Due to Smotrich’s limited army experience in a non-combat role, Netanyahu is said to be uncomfortable with that appointment and will likely install Likud MK Yoav Gallant, who was an IDF general before retiring and entering politics.

Netanyahu may appoint Smotrich as Finance Minister instead, but that move could potentially anger Shas Chair Aryeh Deri, who is believed to be eyeing the position.

The United Torah Judaism party is reportedly demanding that Netanyahu pledge to pass a Supreme Court override law as one the government’s first acts, or threatening to refuse to join the coalition.

A Supreme Court override law would see bills passed by a majority in the Knesset supersede decisions made by the high court.

Israel does not have a constitution which clearly states the limits of the authority of the legislative and judicial branches of the government.

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The Supreme Court has struck down laws passed by the Knesset which it deems “undemocratic” on previous occasions, a policy which has greatly irked many of the right-wing parties.