Israel’s narrow far-right coalition government has been looking to expand for awhile, with talk of including the center-left Zionist Union to take charge of the stalled peace talks. That possibility appears to be remote, at this point, and instead the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party is said to be coming in.
Jewish Home, which hadn’t been keen on the inclusion of Zionist Union, cheered the inclusion of Yisrael Beiteinu, and reports of that party’s leader, ultra-hawk Avigdor Lieberman taking over the defense ministry, as proof Israel will soon have “the most right-wing government ever.”
At present, the government includes Likud, Kulanu, Jewish Home, and the religious parties. Lieberman was excluded back during the coalition talks both because of his poor showing in the election and his hostility toward the religious parties. It’s unclear how he will co-exist with them now.
Jewish Home, however, saw hope in Lieberman’s overt support for Israeli medic Elor Azaria, who shot an unarmed and wounded Palestinian detainee in Hebron, and is facing some limited charges over it. Current Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has advocated some semblance of morality within the Israeli military, a stance which has many calling for his ouster.
Netanyahu is said to be planning to give Ya’alon the Foreign Ministry as a consolation prize, a post that hasn’t been held by anyone during the current government. Lieberman had been foreign minister before the election, but in practice international diplomacy was run out of the prime minister’s office, given Lieberman’s tendency to pick fights internationally.
Despite being a party of only six seats, Yisrael Beiteinu is getting two major ministries out of the deal, both the defense ministry and the immigration absorption ministry. Lieberman had also conditioned his joining on Israel agreeing to empower the military to execute detained Palestinian “terrorists.” It is unclear if that is yet agreed to, however.
Though the inclusion of Yisrael Beiteinu will end the “one seat majority” problem for Netanyahu, it is unclear if it will really strengthen the coalition, as Lieberman’s hostility toward the ultra-Orthodox will almost certainly lead to a new round of fighting with Shas and the UTJ.