Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu agrees coalition deal – BBC News

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, 4 May 2015

The PM’s negotiations on a coalition went down to the wire

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed an 11th-hour deal to form a new coalition government.

The deal, seven weeks after his Likud party won the election, came just before a final deadline for the formation of a government.

Mr Netanyahu needed backing from the right-wing Bayit Yehudi party to give him the necessary 61 seats.

Mr Netanyahu, who first became PM in 1996, is now on course for his fourth term in office.

Down to the wire

In the 67 years of its history, Israel has never known any form of government but multi-party coalition, says the BBC’s Kevin Connolly, in Jerusalem.

No-one has ever won an outright parliamentary majority, but rarely can the process have come right down to the wire quite like this, he adds.

The leader of Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), Naftali Bennett, had demanded the justice ministry in return for support from his eight MPs.

He opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, enjoys the support of Israeli settler communities in the West Bank and has called for the annexation of parts of the occupied territory.

Bayit Yehudi’s backing for settlement expansion could deepen Israel’s rift with its ally Washington and with Europe, correspondents say.

Naftali Bennett, leader of Bayit Yehudi, 16 February 2015

Bayit Yehudi, led by Naftali Bennett (pictured), was demanding the justice ministry in return for support

Mr Netanyahu had already secured deals by late on Tuesday with three parties – the centrist Kulanu and two ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas.

He now has a majority of just one in the 120-member parliament, the Knesset.

Former ally and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday that his Yisrael Beitenu party would not join the coalition.

He had complained that the new coalition was not “nationalist” enough.

Election results graphic

The reported coalition agreement came around two hours before a midnight deadline.

Without an accord, President Reuven Rivlin would have offered the chance of forming a government to another party – probably the centre-left opposition Zionist Union, which lost the election despite exit polls predicting a dead heat with Likud.

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