Israel Coalition Talks: Netanyahu Ally Dery to Serve as Health, Interior Minister Before Taking Finance Ministry

Shas’ Arye Dery will also be Netanyahu’s deputy prime minister, and Shas will receive Religious Services and Labor, Social Affairs and Social Service ministries as well, over a month after the right-wing bloc won Israel's election

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Benjamin Netanyahu looks at Arye Dery as they stand with Bezalel Smotrich (right) and other members of the new Israeli parliament after their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem in November.
Benjamin Netanyahu looks at Arye Dery as they stand with Bezalel Smotrich (right) and other members of the new Israeli parliament after their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem in November.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/Reuters

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party agreed to terms on a coalition deal early Thursday morning with Shas, granting the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party head Arye Dery control over the interior and health ministries as well as the finance ministry, according to a statement from Likud.

In the agreement reached overnight, Dery will serve the first half of the government’s term as Israel’s Interior and Health Minister, while in the second half he will serve as the Finance Minister, replacing Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich. The coalition agreement also stipulated that that Dery will serve as Netanyahu’s deputy prime minister throughout the government’s duration.

Additionally, Shas will receive the Religious Services and the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services ministries. Two other Shas MKs will serve as ministers in the Education Ministry and the Interior Ministry respectively. Until the full coalition deal is signed amongst all the parties, Shas may still receive additional appointments, a statement from Likud said.

Netanyahu subsequently thanked Dery for agreeing to the terms of the deal, saying that “Tonight we completed another step on the way to establishing a right-wing government that will act for the benefit and well-being of all the citizens of the State of Israel.”

Dery at Shas headquarters last month.Credit: Noam Rivkin Fenton

Dery also praised Netanyahu, saying that “this is a first step toward a comprehensive coalition agreement and with God’s help we will establish a right-wing government. The Shas movement as the social-welfare party of the Knesset, has upheld its election mandate and will serve the public in the most social-welfare oriented offices.”

Netanyahu and United Torah Judaism finalized a coalition deal on Tuesday that would grant the ultra-Orthodox party control over the Construction and Housing Ministry and the coveted chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee. UTJ, which is led by Yitzhak Goldknopf, will also assume responsibility for the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry and is expected to receive three deputy minister positions and the chairmanship of four Knesset committees.

UTJ will be given the chairmanship of the Knesset’s Interior and Environment Committee, the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee and the Special Committee for Public Petitions. The party will also receive deputy minister positions at the Transportation Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and either at the Social Affairs Ministry or another ministry to be decided upon later.

President Isaac Herzog is thought likely to grant Benjamin Netanyahu an extension of time to form a government. The Likud leader is expected to ask for an additional 14 days. His mandate currently expires at midnight at the end of the day on Saturday. Fourteen days is the maximum extension allowed by Israeli law, but Herzog has apparently not yet decided whether to grant the full two weeks at once or to initially grant less time.

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