Israel’s Premier Netanyahu signs deal with fifth coalition partner

April 1st, 2009 - 4:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Jerusalem, April 1 (DPA) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party signed a coalition agreement with a fifth partner, the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) Wednesday, a day after his government was sworn in.
The agreement was signed after last-minute differences were ironed out, Israel Radio reported.

UTJ, which has five mandates in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament, did not receive any ministerial portfolios. It did receive the deputy ministerial posts of health and education.

The main bone of contention had been the wording of a clause in the coalition agreement, dealing with conversion to Judaism. The party represents largely ultra-Orthodox Jews of Ashkenazi, or European, origin, while another coalition partner, Shas of Interior Minister Eli Yishai, represents largely ultra-Orthodox Jews of Sephardic, or Near Eastern origin.

The Likud’s three other coalition partners are the ultra-nationalist Israel Beiteinu of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the left-to-centre Labour Party of Defence Minister Ehud Barak and the pro-settler, far-right Jewish Home party of Science Minister Daniel Hershkovitz.

On Tuesday night, Israel’s Knesset approved the government presented by incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a vote of 69 in favour to 45 against.

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