JERUSALEM (Reuters): Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party signed its first coalition deal with Itamar Ben-Gvir’s far-right Jewish Power party, Likud said in a statement on Friday.
The agreement, which does not account for a full and final new government in Israel, gives Ben-Gvir the police ministry and a seat in the security cabinet.
“We took a big step tonight toward a full coalition agreement, toward forming a fully, fully right-wing government,” Ben-Gvir said in the statement.
Netanyahu’s Likud and its religious and far-right allies marked a clear victory in Israel’s Nov. 1 election, ending nearly four years of political instability. His efforts to quickly form a government have hit roadblocks, however, as negotiations with coalition partners drag on.
The incoming government looks to be the most right-wing in Israel’s history, forcing Netanyahu into a diplomatic balancing act between his coalition and Western allies.
Ben-Gvir’s record includes a 2007 conviction for racist incitement against Arabs and support for terrorism, as well as anti-LGBT activism. He says he no longer advocates expulsion of all Palestinians — only those he deems traitors or terrorists.
A settler living in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in a 1967 Middle East war, Ben-Gvir is opposed to Palestinian statehood. He also supports Jewish prayer on a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque and which is a vestige of ancient Jewish temples.