Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party continued to make slow but steady progress Thursday in its efforts toward forming a coalition following this month’s election, moving closer to deals with the Haredi Shas party and far-right Otzma Yehudit.

The protracted negotiations have dampened Netanyahu’s hopes of quickly forming a government after the November 1 election delivered the bloc he leads a 64-seat majority in the 120-lawmaker Knesset. Talks have hit roadblocks from his partners’ spiraling and sometimes competing demands.

According to multiple media reports, the new agreement would see Itamar Ben Gvir’s party receive the Public Security Ministry with expanded powers, the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry and the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee.

However, the latter will be split up, according to Channel 12, due to conflict with Shas. The “periphery” portfolio — referring to often-poorer towns outside Israel’s central population hubs — will go to Shas, which views such locales as a key component of its voter base.

Meanwhile, Shas will receive the Interior Ministry as well as the health and welfare portfolios.

But talks with Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism appeared to remain stalled.

Smotrich has demanded either the Defense Ministry or the Treasury, and Netanyahu appears to have agreed in recent days to give him the latter for at least the first two years of the government. Despite the reported progress, talks with Smotrich continued to be mired in mutual accusations, with Religious Zionism claiming Netanyahu had gone back on promises and Likud accusing the far-right party of making exaggerated demands in exchange for fealty to the nascent government.

In addition to the first two years in the Finance Ministry, Smotrich has reportedly demanded the settlement affairs and immigrant absorption portfolios, as well as chair of four out of 11 coalition-controlled Knesset committees.

Citing sources involved in the talks, Haaretz reported that Smotrich also demanded control over the state’s Jewish conversion system.

Reports indicated that Likud had agreed to hand Smotrich control of the Civil Administration — the part of the Defense Ministry that manages Area C in the West Bank, where all Israeli settlers and several thousand Palestinians live under Israeli civilian and military control.

But in a lengthy statement released Wednesday following reports of progress in talks, Religious Zionism accused Likud of constantly leaking “lies” to the press as part of the coalition negotiations, alleging in a lengthy statement that Likud wanted to “trample and humiliate and sideline” the party.

“We suggest that Likud start getting serious about the negotiation,” it said.

“Things weren’t okay” in more than a decade under Netanyahu, the party charged, and said that it “promised that it will be different this time,” referring to a list of its often radical demands regarding security, the judiciary, settlements, and religious matters.

Earlier Wednesday, Likud MK Yariv Levin, the party’s point man on coalition negotiations, reportedly said in private conversations that Smotrich’s demands to shift parts of ministries to his control, such as the Civil Administration, would form “a government within a government,” classifying the asks as “delusional.”

Meanwhile, the prospective coalition’s second Haredi party, United Torah Judaism, is expected to get the Social Equality Ministry and the Housing Ministry. But it too has complained of feeling sidelined in negotiations.

Coalition negotiations between the parties have dragged on since Netanyahu was given a 28-day mandate earlier this month to form a government, amid squabbling over appointments and legislative priorities. The mandate expires December 11, but may be extended for two weeks.

Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.

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Likud said to make progress in coalition talks with Otzma Yehudit, Shas

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25.11.2022

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party continued to make slow but steady progress Thursday in its efforts toward forming a coalition following this month’s election, moving closer to deals with the Haredi Shas party and far-right Otzma Yehudit.

The protracted negotiations have dampened Netanyahu’s hopes of quickly forming a government after the November 1 election delivered the bloc he leads a 64-seat majority in the 120-lawmaker Knesset. Talks have hit roadblocks from his partners’ spiraling and sometimes competing demands.

According to multiple media reports, the new agreement would see Itamar Ben Gvir’s party receive the Public Security Ministry with expanded powers, the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry and the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee.

However, the latter will be split up, according to Channel 12, due to conflict with Shas. The “periphery” portfolio — referring to often-poorer towns outside Israel’s central population hubs — will go to Shas, which views such locales as a key component of its voter base.

Meanwhile, Shas will receive the Interior Ministry as well as the health and welfare portfolios.

But talks with Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism appeared to remain stalled.

Smotrich has demanded either the Defense Ministry or the Treasury, and Netanyahu appears to have agreed in recent days to give him the latter........

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