Israel to vote on enlarged cabinet before new govt

AFP , Friday 8 May 2015

A combination photo shows Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on January 21, 2013 and Naftali Bennett (R), leader of the Bayit Yehudi party, in Tel Aviv on January 20, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Israel's parliament is to vote next week on enlarging the cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party said Friday, reportedly to satisfy senior party members demanding portfolios.

After six weeks of intensive post-election negotiations, Netanyahu on Thursday signed a deal with the far-right Jewish Home party, completing his new coalition government.

Media said he had hoped to submit it to parliament for a vote of confidence on Monday, although legally he has until Wednesday to do so.

His slim majority of 61 of the 120 seats in parliament, called the Knesset, was built at the cost of major concessions to his coalition partners, sparking frustration within his own party.

A Likud statement said the Knesset would be asked to vote on Monday to increase the number of number of cabinet ministers to 20 from its present legal maximum of 18.

"Following the vote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will begin the process of allocating responsibilities for government ministries and other duties in the government and parliament to members of Likud," it said.

Netanyahu informed Israel's president and the Knesset speaker on Wednesday night that he had hammered together a coalition between Likud and four other parties.

By law he must have his ministers sworn in within seven days of that declaration.

Newspapers said Netanyahu was concerned that Likud MPs upset at not securing a portfolio in the new government could gang up and vote against the cabinet at the Knesset.

Druze Likud lawmaker Ayoub Kara has set the tone saying "there will be surprises" if Netanyahu does not give a portfolio to a member of his community.

It was "inconceivable" for there to be no Druze in the cabinet lineup, he was quoted as saying in several newspapers.

The law limiting to 18 the number of ministers in government was approved in 2014 in a bid to reduce public spending.

In 2009-2013, Netanyahu led a 30-member government, the largest in the history of Israel.

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