Updates and TODAY’S BLOG (5:30 pm Israel time):
What appeared to be a done deal a few hours ago is on hold yet again with members of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi accusing PM Netanyahu of breaking a promise to appoint them as deputy ministers in a new government.
Before this latest snag, the new coalition government had agreed on a number of principles.
**The first group of principles specifically targets the ultra-orthodox community:
1. Military or civil service will be mandatory for all Israeli citizens over 18 years old. Nevertheless, the importance of Torah studies will be emphasized and ultra-orthodox recruits will have three options: to serve in the army, to complete national service, and to become “continuing” yeshiva students.
2. Automatic draft exemptions for ultra-orthodox Jewish yeshiva students will be ended. Nevertheless, 1800 especially precocious yeshiva students will be eligible to receive an exemption.
3. Core subjects (math, science, and English) will be taught in all Israeli schools–including religious schools–within the next three years.
4. The government will introduce economic proposals to encourage the ultra-orthodox to get a job.
5. Government funding of yeshivas will be significantly reduced.
**A second set of principles concerns governmental reform:
1. There will be a reduction in government ministers with only 18 ministers and 4 deputy ministers. There will be no ministers without portfolio.
2. It will take a majority of 65 ministers in the Knesset to call for new elections (as opposed to the current 61).
3. The electoral threshold for parties to receive representation within the Knesset will be raised to 4% (from the current 2%).
**A third part of the agreement concerns who will serve in what capacity. A partial list:
1. Yair Lapid becomes the new Finance Minister.
2. Naftali Bennett becomes the new Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor.
3. Likud loses the Education Ministry to Yesh Atid. Gideon Sa’ar, the current Education Minister will become the new Interior Minister.
4. Reuven Rivlin is out as Speaker of the Knesset–to be replaced by Yuli Edelstein of Likud-Beiteinu.
5. Avigdor Lieberman, dependent upon the outcome of his upcoming trial, remains as Foreign Minister.
6. Likud-Beiteinu keeps the Ministry of Defense.
Of course all of this remains dependent on signing an actual agreement. As of 5:30 pm this afternoon, the meeting called for tonight to sign the agreement has been cancelled–and all talks are in limbo.