Netanyahu One Party Short for Coalition, May Ask for Extension


The Likud’s MK Yariv Levin (C.) and United Torah Judaism leaders sign an interim coalition deal on Tuesday night. (Likud)

Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu was still one partner short of a coalition to secure a majority in the Knesset on Wednesday after the United Torah Judaism party signed on Tuesday night, with the deadline for forming a government looming.

The deal with UTJ promised Netanyahu control of 53 MKs of the Knesset’s 120 seats with his conservative Likud party. That left Shas, with their 11 seats, as Likud’s last likely ally.

Besides UTJ, Likud has so far signed preliminary agreements with the Religious Zionist Party led by Betzalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit headed by Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Avi Maoz’s Noam party.

Netanyahu has said he will serve all Israelis but has not indicated any plan for reviving talks with Palestinians.

UTJ said in a statement on the Likud deal, which it agreed even though some details were pending, that talks needed to be extended beyond Sunday’s 28-day deadline for a coalition agreement.

President Yitzchak Herzog can extend the mandate by 14 days.

Among issues dogging the coalition talks is the appointment of Shas leader Rabbi Aryeh Deri, a candidate for finance minister. Shas has submitted legislation that would enable Rabbi Deri – who was spared jail under a plea deal – to serve in the Knesset.

Netanyahu has yet to request an extension for coalition talks. But the opposition has accused him of planning to use any extra time he might get to push the Deri-linked bill through the Knesset before his government is in office.

Meanwhile, the United Arab List (Ra’am), a party that was part of the outgoing coalition, signaled it might be willing to join Netanyahu.

“I’m not ruling this out,” UAL leader Mansour Abbas told 103 FM radio on Wednesday, saying he awaited word on the new government’s policies.

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