MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit party, is reportedly planning to make an additional demand of Likud head MK Benjamin Netanyahu, in return for agreeing to be part of his ruling coalition. This new demand relates to the question of the Reform movement's form of conversion.
According to Kan Reshet Bet, Ben-Gvir will insist on the coalition accords including a clause obligating the passage of a new law that cancels the Supreme Court's ruling recognizing Reform conversion for the purposes of immigration (under the Law of Return). Furthermore, Otzma Yehudit intends to coordinate this demand with its other potential coalition partners: Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Religious Zionism.
If such a law is implemented, only people who are Jewish according to halachah (Jewish law) will be entitled to automatic approval for immigration along with citizenship and other benefits. Senior officials within Otzma Yehudit insist that the secular population of Israel will actually gain from such a law. They point out that since the Supreme Court began recognizing Reform conversion for the purposes of immigration, the haredi community began to compile internal registries containing lists of people recognized as of genuinely Jewish descent, further deepening the divide between the haredi community and other Israeli citizens.
Meanwhile, on Saturday evening, it was reported on Channel 12 News that Netanyahu is attempting to postpone his coalition negotiations with the Religious Zionism party until after concluding agreements with his other potential partners, and to limit its influence in government, despite the fact that the party jointly headed by MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir is the third-largest party, following recent elections.
According to this report, Netanyahu plans to first ink agreements with Ben-Gvir and the haredi parties, also apportioning ministries to members of his own party, and only then turn to Smotrich, who will be forced to accept a limited offer of less important roles in the new government, such as the Education and Transportation portfolios, and possibly also the Justice portfolio.
Netanyahu is seeking to finalize his coalition agreements with Ben-Gvir, Shas, and UTJ by Monday, even though his initial attempt to hurry up the process by leaving out comprehensive commitments from the agreements failed, when his potential partners refused to agree to such an arrangement.
Shas head Aryeh Deri will reportedly be offered either the Finance, Defense, or Interior Ministry, even though Religious Zionism won three more seats than Shas in the elections. Netanyahu will also offer Smotrich the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Ministry for the Negev and the Galilee, and the Health portfolio, with a possible further ministry to be decided on later.
Nonetheless, sources within the Likud who are privy to the coalition negotiations have admitted that at the end of the day, Smotrich will probably be offered the Finance Ministry, with Likud opting to keep the Defense Ministry for itself. Moreover, despite Netanyahu's wishes, the new government will likely not be sworn into office until the coming week, as it will take longer than hoped to conclude agreements with all the relevant parties.
Sources within Religious Zionism responded to the reports telling Kan News that Netanyahu is insulting their party. "Netanyahu is still stuck in the old way of thinking, that Religious Zionism has a giant heart and a tiny brain," they said. "He's trying to drive a wedge between us and Ben-Gvir."