Netanyahu ally Levin chosen as new Israel parliament speaker

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Israel’s parliament elected a close ally of prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu as its new speaker Tuesday to oversee the passage of legislation that will help his formation of a government.

Yariv Levin, a senior member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, was chosen as speaker to replace Mickey Levy from outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

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Levin may not be speaker for long, with some Israeli political pundits forecasting he will be tapped for a prominent cabinet role in Netanyahu’s new coalition, which is expected to be the most right-wing in Israeli history.

But before that government can be formed, parliament must first pass a measure allowing one of Netanyahu’s most powerful allies, ultra-Orthodox Jewish leader Aryeh Deri, to serve in cabinet despite past convictions for tax evasion.

Deri, who heads the Shas party, has been promised the interior and health ministries in the incoming Netanyahu government.

But the attorney general has ruled that under current law, his convictions bar him from serving in cabinet.

Levin is expected to move quickly to pass legislation removing that barrier.

In a general election last month, Netanyahu and his allies won 64 of parliament’s 120 seats, giving them the opportunity to form a majority government after an unprecedented period of political gridlock that forced five elections in less than four years.

But Netanyahu’s coalition talks have proved complicated, with controversial far-right leaders demanding sensitive posts.

Last week, President Isaac Herzog gave Netanyahu an extension to conclude his coalition negotiations.

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