September 25, 2023

Israel’s prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly reached a compromise with the head of the far-right Religious Zionism party Bezalel Smotrich, possibly bringing him one step closer to forming a coalition.

Smotrich was aiming for the Defense Ministry position that will reportedly stay within the Likud party.

According to reports, the defense portfolio which Smotrich was aiming for will stay within Netanyahu’s Likud party, and he will instead become Israel’s newest finance minister. Should Smotrich have been given the defense portfolio, he would have had significant control over the West Bank.

Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox party Shas party, was also vying for the role of finance minister, but reportedly will take up the role of interior minister instead. However, there may be conflict regarding Deri’s appointment, following reports of Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara attempting to block it due to his suspended sentence.

Reports also indicate a big win for Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Jewish Power party, who has reportedly received his desired role of public security minister. Additionally, the Agriculture Ministry will go to someone within his far-right party, which originally demanded the Development of the Periphery, Negev and Galilee Ministry, that will instead go to Shas.

When the news broke, the first reaction was how Deri, who was also pushing and vying for the Finance Ministry, was going to react. But the reality is, Deri has already been in an Interior Ministry position, and so, given that he has had the portfolio in the past, he definitely has the experience and skill for this position.

But the interesting thing is that he is set to become deputy prime minister – which would be like vice president for Americans. And this is definitely a compromise that he would have been willing to accept, which is why he would be willing to bow down to someone like Smotrich, and basically be forced to give in.

Additionally, the fact that Shas has also secured the Religious Affairs portfolio is an interesting one, as well as them taking a portfolio from Jewish Power: the Periphery. The whole reason why the negotiations between Jewish Power and Likud collapsed was because this portfolio was seemingly taken away from Ben-Gvir and his party.

So it really goes to show that it is a game of compromises, not zero sum. There is something for everyone. Now, someone like Deri has taken something from both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir. And the same seems to be the case for Smotrich, demanding the Finance Ministry and seeming to be getting it. But he is also dipping his toes into various committees and deputy positions within the Defense Ministry, while not actually retaining full control.

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