Netanyahu signs Israel coalition deal with Noam party

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has signed a deal to give an Israeli government post to an openly homophobic ultra-nationalist party leader.

It is the latest development set to give far-right parties unprecedented power within Israel’s ruling coalition.

Avi Maoz will be a deputy minister and run a “Jewish identity” authority.

He heads Noam, a religious-nationalist, anti-Arab and anti-LGBTQ party that argues for a strict interpretation of Jewish religious laws in Israel.

The agreement has added to a growing sense of alarm over the composition of Mr Netanyahu’s likely government.

Outgoing Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, has described it as “full-on crazy”, while Palestinian leaders have warned about the dangers of an impending “right-wing fascist coalition”.

Mr Maoz has described LGBT people as a threat to the family and has said he wants to cancel gay pride parades. His party ran a poster campaign in 2019 with the words “Israel chooses to be normal”.

He has also said a woman’s greatest contribution was in marriage and raising a family.

Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories have been in the grip of growing violence this year and opponents fear the new government’s positions could quickly aggravate tensions.

Mr Netanyahu has remained largely silent in public since he began coalition talks. But he previously dismissed concerns about the danger of an extremist coalition, saying Israelis had voted for security and a full right-wing government.

His Likud party emerged as the biggest faction in parliament in this month’s election.

He has been involved in negotiations with other parties to hammer out a coalition agreement set to usher in the most nationalist and religiously conservative government in Israel’s history.

Last week, Likud signed a deal with the far-right OtzmaYehudit (Jewish Power) party led by Itamar Ben-Gvir – a gun-brandishing street agitator who has past convictions for racist incitement and supporting a Jewish terrorist group.

Mr Ben-Gvir is set to become national security minister with expanded powers over Israel’s militarised police force that operates in the occupied West Bank.

He argues for the expulsion “disloyal Arabs” from Israel and calls for Palestinians who throw stones to be shot by police.

Palestinians have already raised concerns that rhetoric by Mr Ben-Gvir and his co-leader in the Religious Zionism alliance, Bezalel Smotrich, will further empower violence against them by some Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, particularly among their most hardcore supporters.

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