Despite being slated to receive just five seats in the incoming Knesset, Union of Right-Wing Parties chairman Rafi Peretz said Wednesday that he would demand two ministerial posts in coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
With the Knesset’s right-wing bloc holding a clear lead with near-final results in, Netanyahu was widely seen Wednesday morning as having secured a fifth term in office, kicking off speculation and jostling over how the positions in the next government would be distributed.
Peretz noted on Army Radio that his faction in fact has six seats, including former member Eli Ben Dahan for whom a spot was reserved on the Likud slate as part of a deal that saw Peretz’s Jewish Home and the National Union team up with the extremist Otzma Yehudit party.
Peretz said he would be best fit to serve as education minister while party No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich, who has a law degree, should be chosen as justice minister.
“It is natural for Bezalel to deal with law while I have decades of work in the field of education,” Peretz said.
He expressed satisfaction at the election results and defended the union with Otzma Yehudit.
“What we proved was that unity and togetherness prevail,” he said. “The fact that I joined forces with Otzma Yehudit proved not only that religious Zionism has stayed on the map, but that the whole right-wing bloc was saved.”
The party convened Wednesday afternoon to summarize the election campaign and determine what its focuses will be in the coalition negotiations with Likud.
Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben Gvir was in 7th slot on the URWP list, and thus is not set to become an MK, but he indicated Tuesday that he could yet enter the Knesset if the party’s potential ministers chose to give up their Knesset seats under the so-called Norwegian Law.
According to a report Monday, Smotrich, the co-leader of the Union of Right Wing Parties (URWP), said that Netanyahu had promised his faction the Education and Justice ministries if it joins the coalition.
Likud denied the report.
With around 97 percent of ballots counted, Netanyahu’s Likud appeared to have won 35 seats in the Knesset, tied with the Benny Gantz-led Blue and White. But the bloc of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties held 65 seats, and Netanyahu is expected to secure a majority of recommendations when faction leaders meet the president in the coming days.
All of the leaders of the premier’s current coalition partners have said they will recommend Netanyahu as the next leader. Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman has threatened to go to the opposition if there are no “clear answers” regarding the defense policy in the Gaza Strip.
The decision regarding who will be the next prime minister ultimately lies with President Reuven Rivlin, who will meet with the leaders of all the parties that cleared the electoral threshold, hear whom each of them recommends as prime minister, and determine which candidate has the best chance of forming a coalition of at least 61 out of the 120 elected Knesset members.
Israel has never had a single-party government, and the next coalition, like the last one, is certain to be a product of tense negotiations among about half a dozen parties that may take days or weeks.