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JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clinched deals yesterday for a coalition government set to curb benefits for ultra-Orthodox Jews, a hot-button issue that has pushed peacemaking with Palestinians to the sidelines.
In control of 68 of parliament’s 120 seats, the new administration — the first in a decade without ultra-Orthodox parties — is expected to take office next week, just days before a visit by US President Barack Obama.
“There is a government,” said Noga Katz, a spokeswoman for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, citing agreements with the centrist Yesh Atid and far-right Jewish Home parties as well as a smaller faction headed by former foreign minister
Yesh Atid, led by ex-TV news anchor Yair Lapid, and high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett’s pro-settler Jewish Home rode a wave of anger in a January 22 election over state handouts and military draft exemptions long granted to the ultra-Orthodox minority.