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Netanyahu, Deri said to make headway in coalition talks; gaps with Smotrich remain

Illustrative: Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks with Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri during a meeting in Jerusalem, March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks with Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri during a meeting in Jerusalem, March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hebrew media reports significant progress in coalition talks following a meeting held by prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Shas party leader Aryeh Deri.

The two leaders apparently hope agreements can be filed by tonight, but at the pace of talks thus far, that would seem unlikely.

According to reported details, Deri is slated to become interior minister and also health minister for the first two years of the government, and then possibly replace Religious Zionism party chief Bezalel Smotrich as finance minister.

That is, only if the current legal status — which bars Deri from serving as a minister for the next seven years due to a suspended sentence he received earlier this year for tax offenses — is changed. That could happen if the Central Elections Committee chairman, a Supreme Court justice, decides the offense doesn’t carry “moral turpitude,” or if the law is changed as Netanyahu and Deri reportedly plan.

The reports say no difficulties are expected with the extremist Otzma Yehudit party, even though there has been no decision on whether it or Shas will get the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee, coveted by both.

Shas is also expected to get control over the Religious Affairs Ministry, while United Torah Judaism is reportedly set to get control over the Jerusalem Ministry, the Ministry for Social Equality and the Housing Ministry.

The tough part remains Smotrich’s Religious Zionism, which in addition to the first two years in the Finance Ministry is also demanding the settlement affairs and immigrant absorption portfolios, in addition to heading four of the 11 coalition-controlled Knesset committees.

The gaps with Smotrich are still said to be significant.

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