Benjamin Netanyahu seals deal on coalition

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Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday reached agreements to form a new coalition government.

He is now expected to scale down preferential treatment for the ultra-orthodox minority while pushing ahead with illegal settlement of the occupied West Bank.

The new government, which is poised to be sworn in on Monday, is based primarily on the support of the secularist Yesh Atid party and the Jewish Home party, a pro-settler group. It is the first coalition in a decade that does not include ultra-orthodox parties after Yesh Atid scored well in the elections promising to end army draft exemptions and state subsidies to the religious fundamentalists.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, a former television news anchor, will be Israel’s new finance minister, after relenting on his initial demands to be foreign minister.

With control over the education ministry as well, Yesh Atid is poised to dry up the funding of ultra-orthodox institutions.

However Mr Netanyahu said the main task would be security. “The next term will be one of the most challenging in the history of the state,” he told MPs from his Likud party before the coalition deals were to be signed.

“We are facing great security and diplomatic challenges. The important thing is that this ­government can answer those challenges.”