Netanyahu Finalizes Deals to Form Right-wing Coalition

Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to have clinched a new government this week after signing a coalition accord with Natan Sharansky’s Yisrael Ba’Aliyah Party.

“We’re in,” Sharansky, a former Soviet Jewish dissident, told reporters Monday after talks with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said he planned to present his government to the Knesset on Tuesday, after making his Cabinet appointments.

The agreement with Sharansky gave Netanyahu the necessary Knesset majority to gain approval of his government.

On Sunday, Netanyahu’s Likud Party, which ran a joint list with the Gesher and Tsomet parties for the Knesset, signed coalition agreements with the National Religious Party, Shas and The Third Way.

After reaching agreement with Yisrael Ba’Aliyah, Netanyahu rounded out his coalition by signing an accord with United Torah Judaism, giving the incoming government a 66-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset.

The Likud Party on Monday also published the policy guidelines of the new government, which Netanyahu said were an attempt to continue the peace process to achieve “a peace with security.”

The guidelines oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and vow to preserve Israeli rule over a united Jerusalem.

They represent a more hard-line approach to the peace process than the one held by the outgoing government of Shimon Peres.

Peres, who chaired Monday’s opening session of the 14th Knesset due to his status as the body’s oldest member, said, “I am convinced above and beyond differences of opinion, concern for the peace, security and welfare of the State of Israel unites all of us.”

Netanyahu had hoped to present his government at the opening session, but he spent the day trying to finalize Cabinet appointments.

He held talks with senior Likud Knesset members who had been expressing concerns that they were being left out of the new Cabinet.

While none of Netanyahu’s appointments were confirmed, the latest reports slated Dan Meridor as finance minister, Ze’ev “Benny” Begin as science and technology minister; Moshe Katzav as communications minister; and Ariel Sharon as housing minister.

Earlier reports had indicated that Gesher Party head David Levy would be named foreign minister and retired Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai, who placed second in Likud’s Knesset list, would be appointed defense minister.

But reporters that Sharon would head the Housing Ministry angered United Torah Judaism, which said it had been promised the portfolio.

Under its agreement with Likud, Yisrael Ba’Aliyah was slated to get the Absorption Ministry, and the combined Ministries of Trade and Industry.

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