By: Hezki Ezra and Elad Benari, Israel National News—
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening welcomed the agreement with the Jewish Home party, which will allow him to form a coalition.
In a joint statement with Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett after the agreement was reached, Netanyahu said, however, that while having a coalition of 61 MKs is good, having more parties join the coalition would be even better.
“I want to thank you for the effort in these negotiations and throughout the last few weeks,” Netanyahu told Bennett. “I’m sure no one is surprised that the negotiations dragged on, with all the factions. And nobody is surprised they ended on time. The timing is urgent, not only because I am going to call the President and the Speaker of the Knesset to let them know that I was able to form a government, but because we need to set it up next week – and we will do so – in order that the people of Israel have a strong and stable government.”
“I said that 61 is a good number and 61 plus is an even better number. But it starts with 61 and we’ll start. We have a lot of work ahead of us. May we all have great success,” Netanyahu added.
Bennett said in his statement, “This evening I had a good conversation with the Prime Minister and told him that I am joining a nationalist government. Mr. Prime Minister, we are behind you for the success of our country and the government under your leadership.”
“This government can complete its term and we will all work together to make this happen,” he added.
Shortly after the statements were made, Netanyahu notified President Reuven Rivlin that he has succeeded in the task bestowed upon him of forming a new government.
The Prime Minister sent an official signed confirmation to the President’s office in which he wrote, “In accordance with Article 13 of the Basic Law: Government, and after you bestowed upon me the task of forming the government, I am honored to inform you that I have been successful in forming a government, which I will request is brought before the Knesset for its approval as soon as possible.”
Shortly after the President and the Prime Minister spoke by telephone.
President Rivlin thanked the Prime Minister and said, “I congratulate you on completing the formation of the government. I have received your letter of confirmation, and look forward to the convening of the Knesset as soon as possible, to approve the government.”
The Prime Minister thanked the President and updated him on the developments that made possible the formation of the government. In addition, he said that it was his intention to bring the government to the Knesset for its approval as early as possible next week.
Wednesday’s deal, which was struck just two hours before a midnight deadline, will see MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) appointed Justice Minister and head of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee; however, she likely will not be a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet.
She will, likewise, not be given the power to appoint Supreme Court and High Court Justices, and that power will instead be transferred to a Likud minister, with Jewish Home and Shas’s cooperation.
Bennett will be appointed Education Minister; MK Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) will become Agriculture Minister, despite demands to be placed in the Justice Ministry instead.
A Jewish Home MK will also be appointed Deputy Defense Minister, and the party will also be given responsibility over the World Zionist Organization (WZO) Settlement Division, effectively the legal liaison between the government and Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.
Other details in the coalition deal will be finalized overnight Wednesday and Thursday morning.