Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a last minute deal, excluding ultra-orthodox groups, to form a government that reflects a centrist power shift following the path-breaking January 22 parliamentary elections.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a last minute deal, excluding ultra-orthodox groups, to form a government that reflects a centrist power shift following the path-breaking January 22 parliamentary elections. Mr. Netanyahu went the extra mile to accommodate the demands of the two new parties — Yair Lapid’s Yaish Atid and Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home. For the first time in a decade, the ultra-orthodox parties have been left out in the government line-up.

The Yesh Atid won a surprising 19 seats, while the Jewish Home grabbed 12. “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,” a statement said.

The new government is expected to be sworn in on Monday — just two days before the commencement of a widely-anticipated visit by the U.S. President Barack Obama.

According to the copy of agreement published by Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, Mr. Lapid would become Finance Minister. Law makers from his party would also get the Health, Education, Science and Technology and the Social Services portfolios. Tzipi Livni, leader of the Hatnua party will become Justice Minister and chief negotiator in talks with the Palestinians — a reward for bagging six parliamentary seats in a highly fractured vote.

Charges of fraud

Mr. Netanyahu is expected to assume charge of the Foreign Ministry, as his alliance partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beitenu, faces trial on charges of fraud and breach of trust.

Former Army Chief, Moshe Ya’alon, will become Defence Minister.

Following the agreement, Mr. Netanyahu will control 68 seats in the 120 member Knesset (Israeli Parliament).

Friday’s agreement was preceded by hard bargaining, following a pact between Mr. Lapid and Mr. Bennett, who insisted, and got a commitment, on the introduction of a new draft law that would compel ultra-orthodox men above the age of 18 to perform compulsory military service.

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