Smotrich and Netanyahu
Smotrich and Netanyahu Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Religious Zionism chief MK Bezalel Smotrich may not be as bent on receiving his demands as it would seem. The coalition negotiations between him and Prime Minister- designate Benjamin Netanyahu have been deadlocked, with the former demanding the Defense or Finance portfolios. But according to a report in Maariv on Thursday, Smotrich may have found an alternative for those demands.

The report cites sources involved in the negotiations who told the newspaper that Smotrich would be interested in receiving control over the Israel Lands Authority, instead of the Defense or Finance ministries.

Smotrich is interested in expanding the Jewish presence in the Galilee and Negev regions by regulating the price of land for Jews so it can be equal to the price for the Arab sector, thereby lowering the housing prices for the Jewish sector. Therefore, the sources predict that if he is offered an improved proposal, which would include the Transportation portfolio, additional infrastructure portfolios, including energy, water, and more, and control over the Israel Lands Authority, he may give up on his demand for the Defense or Finance post.

"It's a tough battle and Smotrich knows how to fight battles like these," the source stated. "By just hearing the words Israel Lands Authority he may retreat from his demands."

In the meantime, sources connected to the incoming Construction and Housing Minister, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) chairman MK Yitzhak Goldknopf, are reacting with displeasure to reports that the Lands Authority will be taken away from their office: "Without control of the Lands Authority, we won't be part of the coalition," they insist.

Sources in the Likud stated: "UTJ received a generous offer, including an additional ministry and more. We hope they'll give up on the Israel Lands Authority."

At the same time, the Likud seems to be making progress with the other faction in the Religious Zionism list. On Wednesday, the party announced that there has been significant progress in the coalition talks between the Likud and Otzma Yehudit.

In the coalition agreement with Otzma Yehudit, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has committed to regulating the "young settlements" within the first 60 days of the new government's formation and to amend the 2005 Disengagement Law to allow Jews to study in the Homesh Yeshiva.

Netanyahu also pledged a legal amendment to prevent weapons thefts on IDF bases and protect IDF soldiers.

The Likud and Otzma Yehudit also agreed on protections against agricultural crime and terrorism and the speeding up of the planning and paving of bypass roads and the expansion of Route 60.

The parties also agreed on the establishment of a yeshiva at Evyatar following the completion of the survey process at the site.