Reports: Deal to form Israeli government coalition is struck


JERUSALEM (JTA) – A deal to form an Israeli government coalition has been struck, according to Israeli media reports.

A standoff between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid reportedly ended Wednesday evening when Netanyahu conceded the Education Ministry to Yesh Atid and took the Interior Ministry for his Likud party.

Earlier in the day, Likud had threatened to launch government coalition negotiations with the haredi Orthodox parties, citing what it called "excessive demands" from Yesh Atid.

The impasse with Yesh Atid prevented Netanyahu from introducing his new government on Wednesday, as he had planned.

With Netanyahu having four days left to form a government, Lapid reportedly backtracked on agreements that he reached with the Likud leader throughout more than a month of coalition talks.

Jewish Home party Chairman Naftali Bennett, who has pledged to enter the government with Lapid or remain in the opposition, reportedly spent Tuesday night and early Wednesday trying to smooth things over between Bennett and Lapid.

Among the coalition agreements that had already been reached are significantly reducing the size of the Cabinet, raising the electoral threshold from 2 percent to 4 percent, drastic budget cuts and a haredi draft law.

If Netanyahu fails to form a government by Saturday night, Israeli President Shimon Peres can assign another politician to the task or the country could hold new elections.

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