Netanyahu reaches deal to form new Israel coalition

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Netanyahu reaches deal to form new Israel coalition

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reached a deal to form a new coalition government, five weeks after January elections produced political stalemate.

For the first time in a decade, ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties are excluded. Instead, centrists and a non-religious nationalist Jewish party will be involved.

The breakthrough followed weeks of negotiations. The centrists from Yesh Atid are led by Yair Lapid who is set to become finance minister in the government. After the election the party emerged as the second largest in parliament with 19 seats.

The third member of the coalition is Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home, which came fourth.

Both partners forced Netanyahu to leave out the religious parties.

“The ultra orthodox (are) outside and they used to be the main partners of Netanyahu, to vouch with any, any policy that he wanted to actually promote, so they are out, he’s going to have a much more tough time,” said Dr Gayil Talshir, a senior lecturer in political science at the Hebrew University.

Both new partners campaigned to end what many Israelis see as favourable treatment for ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are often allowed to avoid the draft to study and claim benefits.

Yesh Atid says it wants to try to restart talks with the Palestinians. But Jewish Home’s support for West Bank settlement building could be a problem.