The ultra-Orthodox Shas party signed a coalition agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party on Monday evening, effectively joining the government.
The Sephardic haredi party is the third party to join the fourth Netanyahu government, after Ashkenazi haredi party United Torah Judaism and Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu party joined the coalition on Wednesday. Netanyahu only has Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett left to recruit, after Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman announced earlier Monday he would not join the new government.
Shas leader Aryeh Deri will head the Economy Ministry, replacing Bennett. Shas will also receive the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, as well as a deputy minister position in the Finance Ministry.
Despite winning the battle with Bayit Yehudi over the Religious Affairs portfolio, the disputed issue of conversions will be under the Prime Minister's Office's authority.
The Likud party said it made an "unprecedented offer" to Bayit Yehudi leader Bennett, which includes the Education Ministry, the Diaspora Affairs portfolio, the Agriculture Ministry, the Culture and Sport Ministry and a deputy ministerial position in the Defense Ministry.
In addition, Bennett was offered membership in the Security Cabinet, and control of the Settlement Division.
"If Bayit Yehudi rejects this offer, there's only one alternative to a national Likud government: A left-wing government headed by Herzog, in which there will be no representation to the religious-Zionists. A left-wing government that will evacuate settlements, compromise on Jerusalem, hurt the religious-Zionist public and capitulates to international pressures," the Likud said in a statement.
"I promised and I kept my promise. The things we promised before the election: 0% VAT (on basic foodstuff), the public housing reform and (raising) minimum wage," Deri said.
He called on Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to join the government, after Lieberman's decision to opt out of the coalition leaves Netanyahu with a narrow 61-members government (out of the existing 120 Knesset members).
"There's a true opportunity for a socially-oriented government," Deri said.
After winning 30 seats in the elections, it appeared Netanyahu would have a relatively time forming his fourth government. But now, he is left with only two days to form a coalition that would have the minimum number of members.
"Sixty-one is a good number, but 61 plus is better," Netanyahu said, noting he intends to try to expand the government further.