Coalition parties in Israel strike deal, spokeswoman says


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 - Page 7

After weeks of deadlock, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday reached an agreement with coalition partners to form the country’s next government, said a spokeswoman for a party involved in the talks.

The new Cabinet appears set to address pressing domestic issues while putting peacemaking with the Palestinians on the back burner.

The three main coalition partners struck a deal after weeks of tough negotiations and were to sign the agreement later yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Yesh Atid party said. She spoke on condition of anonymity.

Talks had stalled over several issues, including the division of key Cabinet portfolios and plans to reform the military draft.

Although Netanyahu’s Likud-Yisrael Beitenu bloc emerged as the biggest faction in the Jan. 22 parliamentary election, he has struggled to form a coalition with the necessary 61-seat majority of 120 seats in parliament.

The prime minister’s bloc has now joined up with two parties led by charismatic newcomers who made big gains in the election.

Yesh Atid, founded by former TV personality Yair Lapid, won 19 seats on a message promising relief to Israel’s struggling middle class and an end to draft exemptions for the Orthodox.

As head of the second largest party in parliament, Lapid will serve as the new finance minister. His party will also control the Education Ministry.

The Jewish Home, a party linked to the West Bank settler movement led by millionaire Naftali Bennett, will likely control the Housing and Trade ministries.