The last minute demands by the Jewish Home party for the powerful Justice Ministry post put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in quite the pickle. He needed to have a deal, at least in theory, in place by midnight, or President Rivlin would be obliged to give some other party a chance to form a government.
Netanyahu’s Likud relented, sort of, offering the Justice Ministry to Jewish Home’s Ayelet Shaked, but imposing massive limitations on the power of the post which have started a whole new round of disputes.
Jewish Home had imagined a dramatic restocking of the Israeli legal system, particularly hoping to stack the Supreme Court selection panel with hawks to end their string of rulings opposed to some of the harshest aspects of the occupation. That, and the upcoming decision on a new Attorney General, made the ministry a hugely valuable piece.
Shaked’s status as an ultra-hawk, interestingly, was not the big problem within Israel, and rather the big problem is that she is not Orthodox Jewish. Her secular status has fueled a huge row.
Since Israel’s separate religious court system is also under Justice Ministry purview, Netanyahu decided Shaked couldn’t make those appointments, and it would rather be decided by Ultra-Orthodox Shas, and a Likud member to be named later.
The Justice Minister is also supposed to head the parliamentary Judicial Committee, and Likud announced that Shaked won’t be allowed that either, severely limiting the power of the ministry.
Even if that part of the dispute gets resolved, fellow Jewish Home member Uri Ariel is demanding the post for himself now, and his faction within Jewish Home, itself a former religious party that demands immediate annexation of much of the West Bank, is threatening to withdraw from the coalition if he doesn’t get it.
If Likud had kept Yisrael Beiteinu in the coalition, this 3-4 seat loss could’ve been managed, but without them, the 61-seat majority in a 120-seat parliament can’t be sustained with any real loss.
Since there is sort of a deal in place, Netanyahu gets another 7 days to finalize things for a government, but there seem to be a number of roadblocks to this, which threaten to derail the coalition outright, meaning the deal is far from over.