Bezalel Smotrich to be Israel’s finance minister in Netanyahu-led cabinet

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Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the nationalist Religious Zionism party, is poised to become Israel’s next finance minister, under a bilateral agreement struck between his party and Likud, the party of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Under the agreement, Smotrich will also serve as a minister in the defense ministry.

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Israel’s parliament is expected to approve Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government on Thursday, with right-wing politicians taking many of the top cabinet posts.

The vote will cement Netayahu’s return as prime minister after just 18 months in opposition.

Smotrich will serve in the role for the first half of the government’s term, and will also serve as a minister in the defense ministry. Arye Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, will then take over the role.

Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party will head the national security ministry, while Netanyahu will likely draw on members of his Likud party for a number of senior positions, including the posts of defense, justice, and foreign minister.

By assembling a government with ultra-Orthodox and nationalist parties, Israel’s longest-serving premier has placed himself in the unusual role of moderate. The US, Israel’s closest ally, has previously expressed concern about the policies advocated by Ben Gvir and others expected to join the government.

Netanyahu’s return ends the brief tenure of Israel’s most diverse coalition government, comprised of eight parties from across political divides.

But they were united by little except their opposition to Netanyahu and their fragile alliance collapsed earlier this year, sending Israelis back to the polls for the fifth time since 2019.

Read more: West Bank settlements top priority: Netanyahu government

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