Israel’s new government seals coalition deals as Netanyahu era nears end

Under a power-sharing agreement, Naftali Bennett, of the ultra-nationalist Yamina party, will serve as PM for two years.

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The new Israeli government, set to end Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as prime minister, signed its final coalition agreements on Friday, pointedly including term limits. The coalition of parties from far-right to left is expected to focus mostly on economic and social issues rather than risk exposing internal rifts by trying to address major diplomatic issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, will be succeeded on Sunday by a coalition that includes for the first time a party from Israel’s Arab minority. Under a power-sharing agreement, Naftali Bennett, of the ultra-nationalist Yamina party, will serve as prime minister for two years.

Bennett on Friday said the coalition “brings to an end two and a half years of political crisis,” although it was unclear how long the coalition’s disparate elements would hold together. He will then hand over to Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party. Among the agreements outlined by parties in what Lapid described as a “unity government” are, limiting the prime minister’s term of office to two terms, or eight years.

An infrastructure push to include new hospitals, a new university and a new airport has been mentioned. Passing a two-year budget to help stabilize the country’s finances, the prolonged political stalemate has left Israel still using a pro-rated version of a base 2019 budget that was ratified in mid-2018. More than 53 billion shekels ($16 billion) have been allocated to improve infrastructure and welfare in Arab towns.

Possible reforms include breaking up an ultra-Orthodox monopoly on overseeing which foods are kosher and decentralizing authority over Jewish conversions. An “overall plan for transportation” in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has also been mentioned.

After a quarter-century at the highest levels of Israeli politics, no one expects the 71-year-old Netanyahu, dubbed the “King of Israel” by his supporters, to quietly retire to his private home in the seaside town of Caesarea.

As the opposition leader and the head of the largest party in parliament, Netanyahu is expected to continue doing everything in his power to bring down the government.

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