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Middle East

Israeli parties sign coalition agreements

Deals with Binyamin Netanyahu paves way for the PM to inform the president that a governmnent has been formed.
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2013 14:50
Lapid, head of Yesh Atid, has been named as Israel's new finance minister in the coalition government [Reuters]

Major political parties have signed coalition agreements with Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu, clearing the way for him to inform President Shimon Peres that a new government has been formed, according to a statement from his office.

Friday's agreement comes after weeks of deadlock.

"The prime minister welcomes the coalition agreements that have been signed between the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu (on one side) and the Yesh Atid party and the Jewish Home," the statement from Netanyahu's office said.

"On Saturday evening, the prime minister will inform President Shimon Peres that he has completed the task" of forming a government."

Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister who leads a small party, joined last month.

Talks were stuck for weeks over the division of cabinet portfolios and reforms in the military draft law.

The new coalition is the first in a decade to exclude Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.

It includes two new rising stars who have pledged to end a system of draft exemptions and welfare subsidies granted to thousands of ultra-Orthodox students.

Yair Lapid, a former TV anchor whose upstart political party was the biggest surprise in Israel's election, was named the country's new finance minister, his spokesman said.

Lapid, who will replace Yuval Steinitz once a new government is sworn in, ran largely on a platform of easing the financial burden on the middle class through the need to share the national burden, a rejection of privileges for the ultra-Orthodox.

He will be forced to make steep government spending cuts and raise taxes to keep Israel's budget deficit under control.

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