Hitch before new Israeli government

March 14, 2013 at 12:36 PM
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JERUSALEM, March 14 (UPI) -- In a last-minute hitch, a key party has refused to sign a coalition agreement to form a new Israeli government, the Haaretz blog reported Thursday.

The refusal by the Jewish Home party means the new government is expected to be sworn in Monday, the blog said. For the first time in 50 years, Israel likely will have no deputy prime ministers, the report said.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after weeks of political wrangling, reached a deal to form a new government, Likud Party spokeswoman Noga Katz said, before the Jewish Home party declined to accept the coalition agreement.

"There is a government," she told Ynetnews.com.

The coalition was to include four parties and a total of 68 members in the 120-seat Knesset.

The new government would to be sworn in early next week after it receives the Knesset's approval -- just days before U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Israel.

Netanyahu and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Likud-Beitenu Party had reached a deal Wednesday night with the Jewish Home (Bayit Hayehudi) and There is a Future (Yesh Atid) parties, paving the way for Israel's 33rd government, reports said.

Netanyahu signed a deal some weeks ago with Tzipi Livni head of The Movement (Hatnuah) Party, agreeing to appoint her justice minister as well as charging her with heading Palestinian negotiations.

Israel held elections Jan. 22 but Netanyahu needed weeks, with Israeli President Shimon Peres granting an extension, to fashion a coalition. The final deal leaves ultra-Orthodox parties outside the ruling coalition for the first time in years.

Under the agreement reached Wednesday night, Netanyahu would remain prime minister and retain the foreign ministry post until the outcome of a trial involving Lieberman becomes clear.

Yair Lapid the head of the There is a Future party will be finance minister in the next government and Naftali Bennet of the Jewish Home party would have been economy and trade minister and vice prime minister.

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