Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to legalise unauthorised settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank in return for support from far-right settlers for his upcoming coalition government. Israel’s prime minister-elect met with the head of the Religious Zionism party, Bezalel Smotrich, to discuss this, but no significant progress was made.
Smotrich wants to be either finance minister or security minister. Netanyahu’s settlement offer was an attempt to dissuade him on both counts as he seeks to form a new government within the required time frame. Details of his offer came from anonymous “Likud sources”.
According to Israeli media reports, the meeting between Netanyahu and Smotrich was held in a “positive atmosphere”, but with no progress being made, it was a step backward. Channel 12 reported that Netanyahu does not want to give Smotrich the security portfolio, and he cannot give him the finance role because the head of the Shas party, Aryeh Deri, is interested in that position. The distribution of ministerial portfolios is clearly not yet resolved.
The channel added that Netanyahu made it clear to Smotrich that, in light of the security situation, there is a need for “moderate” security behaviour until the end of US President Joe Biden’s term. It said that Netanyahu offered Smotrich any ministerial position he wanted, other than finance and security.
After the meeting between Netanyahu and Smotrich, the latter held a meeting with MK Yariv Levin, who is close to Netanyahu and leads the Likud negotiating team, in an attempt to resolve the outstanding issues.
Netanyahu is said to be focusing his efforts on preparing a compensation package that he may present to Deri, in the event that the latter decides to “concede” the finance portfolio to Smotrich, provided that Netanyahu keeps the security portfolio for Likud. He knows that it will be difficult to dissuade Smotrich from his demand for one of the two top ministries. Channel 13 said that the prevailing belief in Likud is that Deri will “concede” and that Smotrich will take the finance portfolio, because Netanyahu is not prepared to assign him the security job under any circumstances.