JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) – Israel’s prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement Thursday with an ultra-Orthodox party, another step toward becoming the most right-wing and religious government in Israel’s history.
The Shas Party has long been an ally of Netanyahu’s Likud. Its base is formed by religious Jewish activists of origin in the Middle East. He promotes a religious and social platform, and there are no women in his block.
Netanyahu has already struck deals with far-right groups whose platforms include expansion of West Bank settlements, harsher punishments for Palestinian aggressors and anti-LGBTQ projects.
Under the agreement, the Shas party would take control of top posts in religious services, social affairs, education and the interior ministries.
Top party leader Arya Deri will serve as health and home affairs minister for half the term and then as finance minister. In addition, he will be the Deputy Prime Minister.
Last year, Derry was convicted of tax evasion as part of a deal that earned him a sentence of probation. In order to serve as a minister, the new government would have to modify an existing law that bars a convict on probation from becoming a member of the government.
The legal move has been criticized for undermining democratic institutions. “It turns this legal process into a farce,” said Amir Fuchs, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem.
Likud and its ultra-conservative allies obtained a majority of seats in the 1 November election, allowing them to form a government.
Netanyahu has until midnight on Monday to form a coalition, although he can ask the president for a two-week extension.
If he takes office, the coalition is expected to promote reforms to weaken the judiciary and pave the way for stalling or dismissing Netanyahu’s criminal trial.