An agreement has been reached for Yisrael Beitenu to join Israel’s government following late-night talks, paving the way for party leader Avigdor Lieberman to become Defence Minister.
The coalition agreement, signed today, had been held up by a dispute over Yisrael Beitenu’s demand for increased pension stipends for elderly residents from the former Soviet Union, who form a core constituency of the party’s support. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads the Kulanu Party of ten MKs, insisted that any increased payments must apply across the board.
A late-night meeting took place in Jerusalem, including Lieberman, Kahlon and Netanyahu. Israel Radio says that they eventually agreed to increases for all pensioners, but at an amount less than Lieberman originally demanded. The signed coalition agreement will be available for the review of MKs for 24 hours.
Haaretz reports that Jewish Home leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett is threatening to oppose Yisrael Beitenu’s entry into the coalition unless a military attache is appointed to report to the security cabinet. Apparently, Bennett insists that such an appointment is necessary, especially in light of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in summer 2014, during which it is alleged that security cabinet members did not receive quality intelligence. Haaretz quotes a Likud source, who called Bennett’s demand “unacceptable”.
With the collapse of coalition talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog last week, Lieberman agreed in principle to bring his five MKs into the government and become Defence Minister. The move precipitated the resignation of Likud’s Moshe Ya’alon from the defence portfolio and the Knesset entirely.
Lieberman is expected to be sworn in as Defence Minister next Tuesday. His Yisrael Beitenu colleague, Sofa Landver is tipped to become Minister for Immigration and Absorption.