United Torah Judaism signs coalition agreement with Likud

The Likud has now signed partial agreements with Otzma Yehudit, the Religious Zionist Party, Noam and UTJ – but not Shas.

 United Torah Judaism MKs Yitzchak Goldknopf and Moshe Gafni sign a coalition agreement with Likud, December 6, 2022. (photo credit: UNITED TORAH JUDAISM)
United Torah Judaism MKs Yitzchak Goldknopf and Moshe Gafni sign a coalition agreement with Likud, December 6, 2022.
(photo credit: UNITED TORAH JUDAISM)

Likud and United Torah Judaism have reached an agreement over the positions UTJ will receive in the incoming government and coalition, they said Tuesday night.

The roles include two ministers, three deputy ministers and four Knesset committee chairpersons.

According to the agreement, UTJ will receive the Construction and Housing Ministry, including the Israel Lands Authority, and the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry, an expansion of the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry.

The three deputy ministers will be in the Prime Minister’s Office, in the Transportation Ministry and in the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry, or “a different ministry to be determined with the prime minister.”

The four Knesset committees will be the Finance Committee, the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, the Labor and Welfare Committee and the Special Committee for Public Petitions.

 United Torah Judaism leaders Yitzhak Goldknopf and Moshe Gafni attend a party meeting at the Knesset, November 21, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) United Torah Judaism leaders Yitzhak Goldknopf and Moshe Gafni attend a party meeting at the Knesset, November 21, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The announcement came in the form of a letter to Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and does not constitute a “jobs appendix” that the other parties signed. Netanyahu reportedly requested the letter to present the progress in talks to President Isaac Herzog as part of his request to receive a two-week extension to form a government.

One of the provisions of the final deal will include a demand for gender segregation in public services and academic institutions and not just public events, as was previously thought, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday. The clause says the government will push through a law within 90 days, asserting that these changes do not amount to discrimination by law and that they will cancel the legal option to file a civil lawsuit without proof of damage or a class action due to religion-based gender segregation.

UTJ was still demanding an Override Clause immediately after the government is formed, UTJ No. 2 Moshe Gafni said Wednesday in a press briefing. This clause enables the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings, and UTJ’s demand is that this requires only 61 MKs, he said.

UTJ and the Likud met on Wednesday to resume negotiations over the final agreement, which will address issues such as funding for private haredi schools and legislation regarding haredi yeshiva students' IDF or national service.

Netanyahu’s initial 28 days will expire on Sunday. The Likud has now signed partial agreements with Otzma Yehudit, the Religious Zionist Party, Noam and UTJ. All of these relate only to the positions each party will receive and do not include other provisions, such as ideology and guidelines for Israel’s 37th government.

Likud and Shas yet to agree

The Likud has yet to announce any agreement with Shas.

The Religious Zionist Party on Wednesday said MK Ofir Sofer is the party’s choice for aliyah and integration minister, and MK Orit Struck is its choice for national tasks minister, the incoming coalition’s new name for the Settlements Ministry.

Either Sofer, Struck or Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel Smotrich will likely also occupy the position of minister within the Defense Ministry, which will be responsible for civil issues in the West Bank.

“It is a great privilege for me, and a Zionist task of the first order, to work for aliyah of Jews from around the world to the State of Israel and to help them integrate in the best possible way,” Sofer wrote on Twitter.

“The office I will be entering soon faces great challenges and many national tasks,” he wrote. “I will try to do them in the best way possible.”

Netanyahu began to meet with Likud MKs on Wednesday afternoon to hear their expectations and wishes regarding their roles in the government and Knesset, the party said in a statement. MK Danny Danon on Wednesday reiterated his wish to become Knesset speaker in an interview on Army Radio.

Others leading candidates are believed to be MKs David Amsalem, Yoav Kisch and Amir Ohana.

Netanyahu reportedly has yet to decide whether to appoint former ambassador to the US Ron Dermer as foreign minister. If not, the role will likely go either to Ohana or to MK Israel Katz.

The Knesset plenum on Wednesday approved the interim deputy speakers: Likud MK Ofir Katz, Shas MK Ya’acov Margi, UTJ MK Yaakov Tessler and National Unity MK Matan Kahana.

National Unity negotiated independently, without the other opposition parties, to receive one of the deputy speaker positions. The party’s MKs were absent from the vote.

Also in the plenum on Wednesday, Noam MK Avi Maoz sang a Hanukkah song called “We have come to banish the darkness” (Banu Hoshekh Le’garesh) and said he did not hold “dark” opinions. The politicians who opposed his appointment as head of the branch that oversees external content in the education system were the “dark” ones, Maoz said.