Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has struck a coalition deal with the leader of an ultranationalist faction known for its homophobic remarks and disparaging remarks about non-Orthodox Jews.
Mr Netanyahu’s Likud announced the deal, naming Noam faction leader Avi Maoz as deputy minister, with responsibilities including an office to support Jewish identity among Israelis, signaling the hardline makeup of the future government .
The move is part of Netanyahu’s efforts to finalize a power-sharing deal with his potential ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist allies after the Nov. 1 parliamentary elections.
Mr Netanyahu is poised to form one of the toughest religious and nationalist governments in Israel’s history.
Mr Maoz, a Jewish fundamentalist and West Bank settler, has been outspoken against LGBTQ rights and women in the military, and has spoken out against Arabs teaching Jewish students in Israeli schools.
He has denied the legitimacy of alternative Judaism, including Reform and conservative movements, which are marginal in Israel but dominant in the United States and have long provided the country with financial and diplomatic support.
In a statement, Mr Maoz said the deal with Likud was “the first step in returning the soul to the homeland”.
His Noam faction, which ran jointly with the religious Zionist party of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich in the last election, won 14 seats in the 120-member Knesset, making it the third-largest faction.
Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party has yet to finalize a coalition deal with all its potential allies and form a government.