The Likud and Religious Zionist parties reached a coalition agreement on Thursday evening that clears the way for Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government backed by 64 members of Israel’s Knesset.

Under the accord, Religious Zionist Chairman Bezalel Smotrich will become finance minister for two years under a rotation deal with Shas Party head Aryeh Deri.

The Religious Zionist Party, which has seven members of Knesset, will also get a post in the Defense Ministry that will be responsible for District Coordination and Liaison Offices (DCL) and the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, as well as the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, Sherut Leumi (National Service) and pre-military academies (mechinot). The official will act with the coordination and agreement of the prime minister.

Religious Zionist MK Ofir Sofer will be minister of aliyah and integration, and MK Orit Strook will head a new Ministry of National Mission whose areas of responsibility have yet to be determined. Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman, long a champion of the campaign to rein in the power of the Supreme Court, will chair the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

Shas, which has 11 lawmakers, will receive the Interior Ministry.

Likud has already reached coalition agreements with Otzma Yehudit (six MKs) and Noam (one MK). A preliminary agreement has also been reached with United Torah Judaism, which has seven MKs.

Smotrich said after signing the deal, “Today we are taking another historic step to establish a Jewish, Zionist and national government that will restore security and governance, promote historic reform in the legal system, regulate and develop the settlement enterprise, strengthen the Jewish identity in the spirit of religious Zionism and proudly wave the flag of Zionism, the absorption of aliyah and Israeli society.”

A separate agreement, yet to be drafted, will outline the policies to be advanced by the parties in the next government.

JNS

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