Netanyahu expected to announce government this week

Netanyahu currently has until Wednesday to announce that he has formed a government, although he may request another extension to Sunday, December 25.

 AN ECSTATIC Benjamin Netanyahu greets Likud supporters celebrating the election victory last month. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
AN ECSTATIC Benjamin Netanyahu greets Likud supporters celebrating the election victory last month.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu is widely expected to announce to President Isaac Herzog this week that he has formed a government, following a long and arduous negotiation process that lasted over six weeks.

Although none of the official coalition deals between the Likud and its partners have been signed yet, most are reportedly final, with the Likud is hashing out the final details of its deal with United Torah Judaism. The other partners are Shas, the Religious Zionist Party, Otzma Yehudit and Noam.

According to leading haredi news outlet Behadrei Haredim the final agreement between the Likud and UTJ regarding haredi (ultra-Orthodox) service in the IDF, which was one of the few remaining issues, will be the following:

“In light of the importance that the Jewish people saw, and see, in Torah study throughout the ages, the Basic Law: Torah Study, which determines that Torah study is a core value of Jewish heritage, will be completed by the passing of the 2023 budget.”

UTJ will then be able to use this law in order to defend against any future challenge to the High Court regarding haredi military exemptions. The party demanded that an amendment of the military service law also be passed ahead of the budget that will enable an exemption from national service for haredim who wish to study Torah full time, according to the news outlet.

 BENJAMIN NETANYAHU leaves after holding coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem on Wednesday.  (credit: YONATHAN SINDEL/FLASH90) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU leaves after holding coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem on Wednesday. (credit: YONATHAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Channel 12 on Saturday night reported a number of additional clauses in the Likud-UTJ agreement regarding housing.

These include declaring a new haredi city within 90 days of the government's formation; updating the governmental goals for planning and marketing apartments for the haredi public within 60 days; a NIS 100,000 grant for buyers of second-hand apartments, with the housing minister (who will be from UTJ) deciding which cities will be eligible; appointing a haredi representative to the Israel Land Authority Council; and adding 30 positions at the minister's discretion to the Housing Ministry and the Israel Land Authority.

These clauses will cost approximately NIS 150 million and will be set in the base of the budget – up from the initial NIS 16 million, according to Channel 12.  

Earlier in the week Army Radio reported that the agreement included a clause that every building project with over 1,500 units would put aside 15% for the haredi public. 

Netanyahu currently has until Wednesday to announce that he has formed a government, although he may request another extension – to Sunday, December 25, his last possible extension. Following the announcement to the president, he must have the government approved by the Knesset plenum within a week.

The coalition partners this week will continue their legislative blitz of four laws that it began in the plenum last week, intending to finish the legislative process before the government is sworn in.

The four laws are:

  1. An amendment to the Knesset Law, which cancels the current clause that enables four MKs to break away from an existing party.
  2. An amendment of the Police Law, so that incoming national security minister and Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir receives broader control over the police's budget, as well as greater involvement in the police's priorities and even in "policy issues" regarding "investigations, treatment of cases and indictments."
  3. The "Deri Law," which aims to enable Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri to serve as a minister despite his conviction of tax offenses in January.
  4. The "Smotrich Law," which enables RZP chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich to serve as a minister within the defense ministry, responsible for civil matters in the West Bank.

All bills passed preliminary readings

All of the bills passed their preliminary readings last week, and all save for the Police Law amendment passed their first reading as well.

The Knesset Law amendment is the furthest along in the legislative process. The Knesset will debate it ahead of a second and third reading beginning on Sunday on the plenum floor. Once a bill passes the third reading, it officially becomes law.

The Deri and Smotrich laws were combined since they are both amendments to the same basic law. They are currently being prepared for their second and third readings in an ad-hoc Knesset committee led by Likud MK Shlomo Karhi that was formed specifically for this purpose.

The Police Law has garnered the most debate and is lagging behind the other bills, as it is still being prepared for its first reading. It is being prepared in a second ad-hoc committee led by Likud MK Ofir Katz.

Dozens of speakers in the committee pointed out the law’s many problematic aspects.

The central argument was that it gave the minister too much power and did not safeguard the independence of the police.

Another argument was that the Public Security minister already has the power to dictate policy and therefore the law is unnecessary.

A third argument was that even if there was value in amending the Police Law, it should not be done in fast-tracked legislation, and that the only reason it is being fast-tracked is because Ben-Gvir does not trust that Netanyahu will allow the bill to pass once the government is sworn in.

Ben-Gvir on Saturday night announced that he agreed to drop the word “indictments” from the proposed bill, but would still demand the authority to set policy on investigations.

The bill will thus be altered and the committee will continue working on the final version throughout the week.

The Otzma Yehudit leader accused in an interview on Meet the Press on Saturday night that Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov (Kobi) Shabtai invited members of Knesset to the committee debates in order to oppose the amendment proposal. He did not supply proof of the claim.

Ben-Gvir added that he wanted to have the authority to cancel the citizenship of terrorists. This is something that currently only the Interior minister can do, and it does not appear in the current law proposal.