UTJ Signs Government Deal, Followed By Kulanu

United Torah Judiasm became the first party to join Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's new coalition, followed by Kulanu.

Yaakov Levi,

Binyamin Netanyahu and Ya'akov Litzman
Binyamin Netanyahu and Ya'akov Litzman
Abir Sultan/Flash 90

United Torah Judaism on Wednesday became the first party to join Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's new coalition, as Netanyahu signed a coalition agreement with UTJ heads Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni. Shortly afterward, Moshe Kahlon signed a coalition agreement with Netanyahu as well.

Under the coalition agreement with UTJ, cuts that were made to the budgets for yeshivas in the last government will be restored. The agreement also guarantees that the status quo on religious matters in public life will be respected – which, among other things, means that the government will not support public bus transportation on Shabbat – and any changes to the conversion process will be frozen in place. In addition, the support levels for National Insurance child payments will be restored to their 2009 levels, canceling the cuts that were made in the last government.

The party agreed to join the government after receiving rabbinical permission. Speaking at the signng ceremony, Netanyahu said that “we have worked together in previous governments for the good of Israel. We have done great things. Now we have an opportunity to return to that success now. We have a great ambition to do great things for the Israeli public. My one request is that we all work together for the public good.”

Under the deal with Kulanu, Moshe Kachlon will be appointed Finance Minister. He will also be in charge of the government Planning and Building Authority. MK Yoav Galant will be Housing Minister, and MK Eli Alaluf will be Environment Minister.

During the signing ceremony between UTJ and Likud, Porush and Litzman asked Netanyahu to advance talks with Shas. But that may not be as simple as they believe. Earlier, reports said that Netanyahu was expressing frustration with potential coalition partner Aryeh Deri, as well as with Jewish Home's Naftali Bennett. Likud sources said that Netanyahu is accusing the two of trying to “squeeze” him for concessions he cannot make; if this is how the government acts even before it is formed, the sources said, Netanyahu feels he would be better off forming a unity government with Labor/Zionist Union.

According to a Likud source, Netanyahu is ready begin official negotiations with Labor/Zionist Union on a unity government after he finishes his deals with United Torah Judaism and Kulanu turning his full attention to a last-gasp attempt to finish off his deals with Shas and Jewish Home – and if he cannot, the Prime Minister will seek to draw Labor/Zionist Union into the government.

Speaking on Army Radio Wednesday, Likud MK Ayoub Kara said that he had had a long talk with Labor/Zionist Union Yitzchak Herzog in recent days. Despite Herzog's public comments, Kara said, “he does not at all rule out a unity government. I would do anything to bring such a government about, because the country really needs it.”




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