The announcement came seven weeks after Likud’s election victory and less than two hours before his deadline was set to expire on Wednesday night, enabling Mr Netanyahu to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he had successfully cobbled together a narrow Knesset majority. The 61-seat coalition gives Mr Netanyahu a narrow one-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset and will be his fourth term in office.
In order to secure a deal with Naftali Bennett’s Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home, Mr Netanyahu is believed to have agreed to appoint Mr Bennett as Education Minister (after giving up his previous demands for the Foreign or Defence Ministries), MK Ayelet Shaked as Justice Minister, and another Jewish Home member, MK Uri Ariel, to a third ministry, possibly Agriculture.
The recipient of the Foreign Minister position remains unknown. Reports from Israel suggest Mr Netanyahu is leaving the position unfilled to entice centre-left Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog into joining the coalition.
Israel’s Channel 2 reported Wednesday night that Mr Netanyahu wanted Zionist Union, and not Jewish Home, in the coalition all along, and had offered Herzog the post of Deputy Prime Minister as long as MK Tzipi Livni be left out of the coalition. Likud and Zionist Union both immediately denied the report.
Jewish Home was the last remaining key to the formation of the fourth Netanyahu government. The coalition will comprise just 61 MKs – Likud’s 30, Kulanu’s 10, Bayit Yehudi’s 8, Shas’ 7 and United Torah Judaism’s 6. Jewish Home’s eight seats gave him the necessary 61 seats to form a government, albeit one with a slim majority.
Announcing the coalition deal, Mr Netanyahu said: “I am honoured to inform you that I have been successful in forming a government, which I will request is brought before the Knesset for its approval as soon as possible”.
Mr Netanyahu said the coalition would produce a “strong, stable government” and expressed his hope that he could entice additional parties to increase it from 61 seats.
President Rivlin congratulated Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I congratulate you on completing the formation of the government. I have received your letter of confirmation, and look forward to the convening of the Knesset as soon as possible, to approve the government”.
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett pledged to work hard to ensure the coalition government complete its tenure, which is set to end in November 2019: “We support you. We will assist you with all of our strength for the sake of the country and the government, because we have no other land. This government can complete its term in office. We will work hard to make sure of that”.
Mr Netanyahu said on Tuesday that “61 is a good number; 61-plus is a better number”.
Coalition negotiations took a dramatic turn on Monday when Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that he was resigning and that his six-seat-strong Yisrael Beitenu party would sit in the opposition.
The Likud formally signed its agreement with Shas on Monday night, giving the ultra-Orthodox party the Economy Ministry, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, the post of Deputy Finance Minister and the chairmanship of the Knesset Education Committee.
The ruling faction signed coalition deals with Kulanu and United Torah Judaism last week.
The new government is expected to be sworn in on Monday, along with the first round of ministerial appointments.