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Smotrich says may seek defense, finance, justice portfolios in a Netanyahu coalition

Religious Zionism chair predicts 3-5 ministries for his party; MK Ohana says future government will pass law defining attorney general’s advice as non-binding

Religious Zionism chair Bezalel Smotrich at a Kikar HaShabbat conference in the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Hotel, September 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Religious Zionism chair Bezalel Smotrich at a Kikar HaShabbat conference in the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Hotel, September 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Religious Zionism chair Bezalel Smotrich expressed hope on Saturday that his joint slate with Otzma Yehudit would receive up to five ministerial positions in a future coalition under Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu after the November 1 elections.

Smotrich told Channel 12’s “Meet the Press” that his faction would have the “legitimacy to receive meaningful positions,” and was interested in claiming the defense, finance, transportation, and justice portfolios.

“We will have three and four and five portfolios, god willing, for our party,” he added.

Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit is widely forecast by opinion polls to become the third-largest faction in the Knesset following the elections. Should Likud’s Netanyahu retake power, the far-right slate is expected to play a major role in his coalition government. From 2019 to 2020, Smotrich served as transportation minister in a previous Netanyahu-led cabinet.

The slate is a joint run between Religious Zionism and the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit, the latter led by firebrand lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, as well as the anti-LGBT Noam party led by MK Avi Maoz.

Otzma Yehudit was established in 2012 but was unable to garner enough support to enter the Knesset until 2021, when Netanyahu mediated an alliance between the party and Religious Zionism in a bid to prevent right-wing votes from going to waste in that year’s election. Ben Gvir’s popularity has surged on the hard right since he entered the Knesset.

Likud MK Amir Ohana attends a Knesset committee meeting, December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier on “Meet the Press,” Likud MK Amir Ohana, who also served in a past Netanyahu government as justice minister, vowed that a future Netanyahu-led coalition would pass a bill in the Knesset to rigidly define the role of the attorney general.

“We need to enact an attorney general law, that for the first time since 1948, will determine what are the powers of the attorney general, what are the limits of their jurisdiction, and mainly that their opinion does not bind the government, because they are a consultant, that is all,” he said.

Likud lawmakers in recent months have said that Netanyahu intends on firing Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, appointed by the current government, if he wins the upcoming election. The comments have been denied by the Likud party and Netanyahu.

The center-right National Unity party blasted Ohana’s remarks, charging that they proved “Netanyahu’s one goal — crushing the justice and law enforcement systems.”

Back by his party, Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges, has frequently railed at prosecutors, law enforcement, and the court system in recent years, claiming without evidence that he was indicted on trumped-up charges in order to force him from office.

Likud MKs and their allies have vowed far-reaching reforms to Israel’s legal system if they return to power, such as allowing the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings and giving politicians more say in the judicial appointments process. Some have also proposed legislation that could grant Netanyahu immunity.

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