Binyamin Netanyahu with Shas head Aryeh Deri
Binyamin Netanyahu with Shas head Aryeh DeriMiriam Alster/Flash 90

United Torah Judaism and Kulanu were the first parties to sign coalition deals with Prime Minister Binyamina Netanyahu, and it looks like Shas is next in line. 

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Shas chairman Aryeh Deri at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, and officials said it was likely that an announcement Shas was joining the coalition would follow.

The deal was made possible after Deri declared Wednesday that he was giving up his request to be appointed Interior Minister.

Netanyahu had promised Likud MKs that the post would remain with the party, but beyond that, Deri is concerned he High Court would bar him from that post, considering the fact that he spent time in prison for improprieties committed when he held it in the past.

In an interview with Army Radio on Thursday morning, Deri said he hoped his decision not to pursue the post would pave the way to a final deal with Netanyahu.

“Really, I should be returning to the Interior Ministry, because that is where I can be most effective in helping improve Israeli society,” he said. “But I realize there would be a great deal of public criticism, and I prefer not to start out in a job with that kind of problem.”

Sources in Likud said that Deri would likely be named Economy Minister. Netanyahu has also reportedly accepted a demand by Deri that the government lift value-added sales tax (VAT) from basic food products, such as milk and bread.

It's not yet clear what the fate of the Religious Affairs Ministry will be. Netanyahu had already offered Shas the portfolio, according to the sources, but Jewish Home bitterly opposes that arrangement, and are demanding control of the ministry in order to prevent what they believe will be attempts by Shas to use it as a source of patronage jobs.