Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed an agreement that will expand the coalition to 66 MKs.

During the signing, today

During the signing, today Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

This morning (Wednesday), just a few hours after the Finance Ministry and Yisrael Beiteinu reached an agreement regarding the pension stipends, Netanyahu and Lieberman signed the coalition agreement. According to assessments, Lieberman will be sworn-in as Defense Minister sometime next week. Despite the budget agreement, Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi continued to oppose Lieberman’s entrance to the government as Defense Minister and demanded that changes be implemented in the way the diplomatic-security cabinet is managed.

After the signing, Lieberman and Netanyahu held a joint press conference. Netanyahu opened the press conference by saying: “Since the establishment of this government a year ago, I emphasized that I will work to expand it. Israel requires the stability of a government to deal with the challenges ahead of us and to seize the opportunities before us. I welcome Lieberman and his party members as important partners in the coalition. I call upon Herzog and his friends to join us in achieving a real unity government that will better the prospects for peace- I am committed to the peace process.”

In his speech, Lieberman said: “I’m sure that from next week, the coalition will be much more stable and efficient. There is a subject that is considered the most important and it is the safety of the Israeli citizens.”

Lieberman will only be able to officially enter the government on Monday because once an agreement is signed, the sides must be present it to the public and wait at least 24 hours before holding a swearing-in ceremony. However, no discussions will be taking place at the Knesset. Therefore, the ceremony will be postponed until next week.

The last issue that the negotiation teams had to discuss was related to the pension stipends for immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Yesterday evening, the sides announced that they were “on the verge of a breakthrough.” Overnight, professional teams were able to formulate drafts regarding the pension issue. It appears that an equitable agreement that will include not just immigrants, the cost of which is estimated at 1.4 billion shekels, was agreed upon by Lieberman, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. It is estimated that the terms of the agreement are closer to the requirements of Kahlon than to Lieberman’s original demands.