Israel's coalition talks hit stumbling block as parties squabble

Shas leader seeks to amend law to limit court's ability to rule based on previous norms in order to ensure his appointment to senior ministries despite having been twice convicted for crimes

Moran Azulay, Tova Tzimuki|
Israel's coalition talks appeared to hit more stumbling blocks late on Monday, as Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu scrambles to satisfy his partners and establish a new government.
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  • After Shas leader Aryeh Deri said he was removing his demand to head the Finance Ministry, Netanyahu agreed to appoint Religious Zionists party leader Bezalel Smotrich to the role, but only after vacating key responsibilities from the ministry and placing them under the authority of the Prime Minister's Office.
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    Incoming coalition members
    Incoming coalition members
    Incoming coalition members
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, Amit Shabi, Motti Kimchi, AFP)
    Sources said Netanyahu would take the national budget department and the management of government-owned companies under the wing of his office.
    In place of the role of finance minister, Deri would be given an interior portfolio, a position he had long-held in past governments, as well as transportation minister – which would lay any notion of public transportation on Shabbat to rest.
    But, the United Torah Judaism party was enraged by the thought that Deri would hold such power and demanded in exchange the Religious Affairs Ministry portfolio - also traditionally held by the Shas party.
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    אריה דרעי בטקס השבעת הכנסת ה-25 ב-15 בנובמבר
    אריה דרעי בטקס השבעת הכנסת ה-25 ב-15 בנובמבר
    Aryeh Deri
    (Photo: AP)
    Netanyahu was also facing pushback from Otzma Yehudit leader, far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who demands responsibility over the Negev and the Galilee, both populated primarily by Arab citizens.
    Ben-Gvir had campaigned on increasing policing in the Negev, directing his ire towards the Bedouin community.
    He wil, however, likely be appointed to head the Public Security Ministry, and be given broader authority that any minister before him.
    As coalition-building efforts continue, the government guidelines and policies were also being considered, with Deri proposing far-reaching changes to Israeli judicial system.
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    איתמר בן גביר
    איתמר בן גביר
    Itamar Ben-Gvir
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    He was seeking to limit the court's ability to rule against legislation passed in the Knesset, which would contradict existing norms. By doing so, Deri would be able to serve as minister despite having been found guilty twice for corruption and tax evasion.
    The new government will likely have most portfolios held by Likud ministers - including foreign and defense.
    The Housing Ministry will go to the United Torah Judaism party, a coveted responsibility that will enable Haredi ministers to favor cheaper housing for the rapidly growing ultra-Orthodox population.
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