Benjamin Netanyahu was close to agreeing a six-party coalition government this week, after the leader of the far-right Jewish Home party relinquished his demand to be foreign minister.
The drawn-out discussions between Netanyahu’s Likud party and a host of several nationalist and religious parties could be coming to a close within days, after Naftali Bennett reportedly accepted the Education Ministry and Strategic Affairs Ministry instead.
This leaves Avigdor Lieberman free to become foreign minister, a role he assumed before he was indicted for corruption.
Likud negotiator Ze’ev Elkin on Friday urged Bennett to be more flexible, but said: “We are on the home stretch.”
Bennett, a former settler leader vehemently opposed to a Palestinian state, initially wanted the Defence Ministry, but his party won 50 percent less seats in the 2015 election than it did in 2013, so he had limited negotiating power.
Analysts this week said Netanyahu would now lead a six-party government, commanding 67 of the Knesset’s 120 seats and comprising Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, Bennett’s Jewish Home, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism.
Netanyahu, whose Likud party emerged as the clear winner in the March election with 30 seats, last week asked President Reuven Rivlin for a 14-day extension to form the next government, which is expected to yield the most right-wing Israeli cabinet in recent history. This has worried many in the Jewish Diaspora, who caution against Israel’s increasing isolation on the world stage.
The prime minister dissolved the last government after scathing internal criticism from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid over Jewish nation-state bill they said would discriminate against Israeli Arabs.
Media reports suggest that the Ministry of Construction and Housing, which was previously held by Bennett’s party, has been earmarked for Kulanu, as has the Finance Ministry and the Ministry for the Environment, while the Religious Affairs Ministry would likely go to one of the ultra-Orthodox parties.