Netanyahu strikes Israeli coalition deal with far-right homophobic leader

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Ex-PM poised to form one of most hardline religious and nationalist governments in country’s history

Benjamin Netanyahu at the swearing-in ceremony of Israeli lawmakers at the Knesset in Jerusalem
Benjamin Netanyahu at the swearing-in ceremony of Israeli lawmakers at the Knesset in Jerusalem earlier this month. Photograph: Abir Sultan/AP
Benjamin Netanyahu at the swearing-in ceremony of Israeli lawmakers at the Knesset in Jerusalem earlier this month. Photograph: Abir Sultan/AP

The former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has struck a coalition deal with a far-right leader known for his homophobic rhetoric and disparaging remarks about non-Orthodox Jews, a sign of the prospective government’s hardline makeup.

Netanyahu’s Likud party announced on Sunday that the agreement named Avi Maoz, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Noam party, as a deputy minister, whose portfolio includes an office bolstering Jewish identity among Israelis.

The incremental step is part of Netanyahu’s effort to hammer out a power-sharing agreement with his potential ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist allies following the parliamentary election on 1 November. Netanyahu stands poised to form one of the most hardline religious and nationalist governments in Israel’s history.

Activists holding election campaign banners in support of Avi Maoz near the Sea of Galilee
Activists holding election campaign banners in support of Avi Maoz near the Sea of Galilee in August. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA

Maoz, a Jewish fundamentalist and West Bank settler, is an outspoken opponent of LGBTQ+ rights and women serving in the military, and has voiced opposition to Arabs teaching Jewish students in Israeli schools. He has denied the legitimacy of non-Orthodox Judaism, including the Reform and Conservative movements, which are marginal in Israel but dominant in the US and have long provided the country with financial and diplomatic support.

Maoz said in a statement that the deal with Likud was the “first step in returning the soul to the country”.

Maoz’s Noam faction ran in the last elections on a joint ticket with Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party, which won 14 seats in the 120-member Israeli parliament, the Knesset, making it the third-largest faction.

Netanyahu’s Likud party has yet to finalise its coalition agreement with all its prospective allies and form a government.

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