PM inks coalition deals with Bennett, Lapid

Netanyahu to inform Peres he has completed task of forming coalition, vows new gov't will work to strengthen security.

Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Coalition negotiations came to an end after six weeks on Friday when Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi both signed coalition agreements with Likud Beytenu paving the way for the swearing-in of a new government early next week.
The coalition will be 68-members strong, featuring Tzipi Livni's Hatnua, in addition to Likud Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the signing of the agreements, saying that the parties would "cooperate together for all of Israel's citizens."
He added, "We will work to strengthen the security of Israel and to improve the quality of life of Israel's citizens."
Netanyahu was scheduled to arrive at the residence of President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Saturday evening in order to officially inform him that he had completed the task of forming a government.
According to Bayit Yehudi's agreement with Likud, party chairman Naftali Bennett will be the chairman of the Ministerial Committee on the Cost of Living and the Committee on Increasing Competitiveness in the Economy. Additionally, his party will also chair the joint Committee to Equalize the Burden.
The party will receive five ministries: Economy and Trade; Housing; Pensioners Affairs; Religious Affairs and Diaspora Affairs, and Public Diplomacy. 
"We promised during the elections that we would deal with the cost of living, to increase competition in the market and to return the Jewish soul to the state - and now we have the tools for it," said Bennett following the signing of the agreement.
"This is a government of great opportunity - and we will not miss it. Next week we will start working - all together," he stated.
Bayit Yehudi's central committee was scheduled to meet Sunday at 6:30 p.m. to ratify the agreement.
Overnight Thursday, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bennett cleared the path for the final signing of their coalition deal by agreeing to surrender the titles of vice premier, that had previously been promised to them by the Likud Beytenu party.
This was the last of the issues that needed to be resolved before the coalition agreement could be signed.
For Yesh Atid, Lapid will be Finance Minister, while Meir Cohen and Yael German will be Welfare Minister and Health Minister, respectively. Ya'akov Peri will be Science Minister and Ofer Shelach, a former military reporter, will be Deputy Defense Minister.
Shai Piron of Yesh Atid will be Education Minister. The government will have 22 ministers, including Netanyahu.
Livni will serve as Justice Minister in the new government and Hatnua's Amir Peretz will receive the Environment portfolio.
The agreement between Likud Beytenu and Yesh Atid included several clauses by which the government will promote legislation that will adjust the electoral system in the future. Among the changes to be promoted were raising the election threshold to four percent and minimizing the number of ministers that can serve in a government to 18, with four deputy ministers.
Also according to the agreement, new legislation on haredi enlistment will be brought to the Knesset within 45 days of the new government being sworn in.
Lapid, who met Friday with outgoing Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, stated on his Facebook page that he decided to accept the Finance Ministry in order to help answer the question he asked during his campaign, "Where is the money?"
The Yesh Atid chairman said that in order to help the middle class in Israel he was "not afraid to take steps that will damage my popularity."
Lapid also addressed concerns about his lack of experience ahead of his assuming the Finance Ministry. "It is true I am not an economist. Part of my job will be to congregate the leading professionals around me and make them work together. An external expert mustn't sit in the finance minister's chair, but rather a politician who has considerable political power behind him. Only a politician can stand up to all the pressure that the various sectors put on the Finance Ministry."
Lapid vowed to wage a "daily war" for the middle class as finance minister.