Saturday, January 28, 2023
Jan. 28, 2023

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Netanyahu step closer to far-right cabinet

Israel prime minister reaches deal with ultra-Orthodox party


JERUSALEM — Israel’s designated prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, reached a coalition deal Thursday with an ultra-Orthodox party, bringing him a step closer to forming what is expected to be the most right-wing and religious government in the country’s history.

The Shas party has been a longtime ally of Netanyahu’s Likud. Its base consists of working class religious Jews of Middle Eastern descent and it promotes a religious and social agenda. The party has no female representatives.

Netanyahu already has reached coalition deals with three far-right factions whose agendas include expanding West Bank settlements, tougher punishment for Palestinian attackers and anti-LGBTQ proposals.

Under the latest deal, the Shas party will control or hold senior posts in ministries for religious services, social affairs, education and interior affairs.

The party head, Aryeh Deri, will serve half a term as the minister of health and interior affairs, before becoming finance minister. He will also hold the post of deputy prime minister.

Last year, Deri was convicted for tax offenses as part of a plea deal and placed on probation. To allow him to serve as a Cabinet minister, the new government will have to approve new legislation overturning current laws that prohibit a convict on probation from holding the post.

The maneuver has drawn criticism that it undermines democracy. It “makes a mockery of this criminal procedure,” said Amir Fuchs, researcher at the Israeli Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank.