Likud, Otzma Yehudit first to sign coalition agreement

Gantz: Deal will create "security chaos"; Eisenkot: "A sad joke"

 Benjamin Netanyahu and Itamar Ben-Gvir meet. (photo credit: LIKUD SPOKESPERSON)
Benjamin Netanyahu and Itamar Ben-Gvir meet.
(photo credit: LIKUD SPOKESPERSON)

Otzma Yehudit and the Likud have reached an agreement over the roles the former will receive in the upcoming government, the parties announced in a joint written statement on Friday. The agreement is the first of its kind since Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu received the mandate to form a government on November 13.

The parties deemed the agreement a “jobs appendix,” and only a part of a full agreement which has yet to be signed that will include “budgets, substantive issues and fundamental guidelines,” the parties said.

According to the agreement, Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir will serve as “national security minister,” a newly-named expanded version of the Public Security Ministry.

The expanded ministry will receive jurisdiction over the following units, which are currently parts of other government ministries:

  • The Judea and Samaria Border Police division, which currently operates under the IDF Central Command;
  • The Real Estate Enforcement Division, an independent governmental unit currently subordinate to the Finance Ministry director-general, responsible for combating planning and construction offenses and serving as a professional guide for enforcement at the municipal level;
  • The Green Police, which is currently under the Environmental Protection Ministry and responsible for oversight, deterrence and enforcement of environmental laws; and
  • A unit known as the “Green Rangers,” which is currently subordinate to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and enforces an array of land-related laws such as the illegal takeover of state-owned land.

Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee and National Resilience

According to the agreement, Otzma Yehudit’s No. 2 and party CEO Itshak Waserlauf will receive the Negev and the Galilee Ministry, which will be renamed the “Development of the Negev and the Galilee and National Resilience Ministry.”

It will be split from the “Social Periphery Ministry,” which will likely go to Shas.

The new office will be budgeted in the amount of NIS 2 billion per year, “for the benefit of the development and empowerment of the Galilee and Negev, increasing growth engines in youth centers, caring for senior citizens, and carrying out national projects for the benefit of strengthening Israeli society,” according to the statement.

In addition, the director of planning in the Negev and the Galilee and National Resilience Ministry will be responsible for carrying out the regulation of all “young settlements” in Judea and Samaria, in accordance with the decisions of a team of ministers led by the prime minister, the parties said.

MK Amichai Eliyahu will be Heritage minister, which will be split from the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry.

MK Almog Cohen will serve as deputy Economy minister, MK Zvika Fogel will serve as chairman of the Knesset Public Security Committee and MK Limor Son Har-Melech will chair its Special Committee for the Israeli Citizens’ Fund for half of the Knesset’s term.

“We took an important step tonight to establish a full right-wing government,” Ben-Gvir said in a statement. “The return of security to the streets [and] caring for the Negev and the Galilee, as well as the national resilience, for senior citizens and youth centers as well as for the heritage sites in Israel. I am happy that the agreement on the ministries that Otzma Yehudit will receive will allow us to fulfill our election promises – for the security and strengthening of the Negev, the Galilee and the periphery.”

Gantz speaks out against Likud-Otzma Yehudit agreement

MK Yariv Levin, the coordinator of the Likud’s negotiating team, said: “I welcome the signing of the agreement with Otzma Yehudit, which is the first agreement on the way to establishing a stable right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu that will march the State of Israel [forward] into good years.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Netanyahu was creating a “private army” for Ben-Gvir in the West Bank and harming the defense establishment by distributing authority over security in the region to more than one authority.

This will make cooperation and coordination difficult, causing “security chaos,” Gantz wrote in a post on Facebook.

“The idea of creating a ‘private army for Ben-Gvir in Judea and Samaria is dangerous for the exercise of power, and will create real security malfunctions,” the defense minister wrote.

Gantz additionally warned that splitting up the Civil Administration between the Defense Ministry and Public Security Ministry would bring “severe international pressure” on Israel for “de-facto annexation” without bringing any benefit.

The defense minister also attacked Netanyahu for the new name – the “National Security Ministry.”

“Netanyahu knows that national security is the sum total of the state’s capabilities – security, military, diplomatic, legal, economic and social,” Gantz wrote. “Be that as it may, the national security with its components has one person in charge and he is the prime minister who is responsible for synchronizing all national efforts. One can only see Netanyahu’s move as an admission that the real prime minister will be Ben-Gvir.”

Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, No. 3 in Gantz’s National Unity Party, called the agreement a “sad joke at the expense of Israeli citizens, as part of the negotiation games in which titles are invented for a political need regardless of reality and the needs of the state.”

Netanyahu will meet with all leaders of the right-wing parties on Sunday in order to try to sign additional agreements, the party said.

Likud and Shas make progress, talks with Smotrich still at a deadlock

Likud and Shas made progress in talks between the parties to form the next government on Wednesday.

According to statements by both parties, Shas chairman Arye Deri will receive the Interior and Health ministries, in addition to other portfolios for party members such as the religion portfolio to which former minister Ya’akov Avitan is supposed to return, as well as two more portfolios. The parties aim to sign a joint principal agreement “as soon as possible.”

The possibility of a rotation between Deri and chairman of the Religious Zionism Party Bezalel Smotrich in the Finance portfolio is still being examined.

If the parties manage to agree on this, Smotrich will serve in the position for the first two years and then switch with Deri, serving in his place as head of the Interior and Health ministries.

The gaps with Smotrich are still significant; the Likud hopes to bridge them and progress with the rest of the coalition.