Israel’s Netanyahu reaches coalition deal with pro-settler party

The Religious Zionist Party will be given powers to monitor illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as part of the new agreement.

Israeli Prime Ministerial candidate Benjamin Netanyahu has reached a coalition deal with the far-right Religious Zionist Party, which supports illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The hardline Religious Zionist Party will be given three portfolios, including the finance ministry, on a rotating basis, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party announced Thursday. However, the party did not provide details on how the rotation would work.

The Religious Zionist Party, which opposes Palestinian statehood, will also be given authority over Israeli settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. Netanyahu’s 12-year term as prime minister, which ended in 2021, saw a record number of settlements.

“This is an important additional step approaching us towards the formation of a right-wing, nationalist government,” Netanyahu said.

Thursday’s deal is a major breakthrough for Netanyahu, who has been trying to forge a government after the November 1 elections, in which his far-right coalition won a majority in the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset.

The deal comes nearly a week after the Likud party signed its first coalition deal with the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, giving ultra-nationalist leader Itamar Ben-Gvir the police ministry and a seat in the security cabinet.

Ben-Gvir, a settler from Kiryat Arba in the occupied West Bank, has been convicted of inciting racism, vandalizing property, possessing propaganda material from a “terror organization” and supporting a “terror organization”. Ben-Gvir also wants to expel “unfaithful” Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Bezalel Smotrich, chairman of the Religious Zionism Party, called the deal a “historic step” that will “develop the settlement enterprise.”

Smotrich is a leader of the settlement movement in the West Bank, seeking a massive increase in Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian territory.

The international community, including the United States, overwhelmingly considers settlement building to be illegal or illegitimate.

Between 600,000 and 750,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, in violation of international law.

Palestinians see settlement expansion as a major obstacle to a peace deal and any future state.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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