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Israel's new government excludes ultra-religious

By Ben Brumfield and Mike Schwartz, CNN
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
President Shimon Peres (C) sits with Shas Party leaders at the President's residence on January 31, 2013, Jerusalem.
President Shimon Peres (C) sits with Shas Party leaders at the President's residence on January 31, 2013, Jerusalem.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ultra-orthodox parties are out after years of being in
  • A party that supports West Bank settlements is in the government
  • Netanyahu's priorities: fiscal responsibility, cost of living, Iran
  • Tzipi Livni will serve again as justice minister

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli politicians have reached an agreement on a new government that excludes ultra-religious parties, which have almost always been a part of the ruling coalition.

The main ultra-orthodox Shas Party will join the Labor Party in the opposition rows of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. It leaves the governing coalition with no party that traditionally trumpets the concerns of the poor.

After weeks of negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forged a coalition deal with centrists and ultra-conservatives after his conservative Likud Beitenu Party landed a solid lead in Israel's January 22 national election, Likud spokeswoman Noga Katz said.

The Knesset holds 120 seats, and more than 60 are usually needed to form a coalition government.

But Netanyahu has said he wanted to build a large majority, and he has achieved that goal by signing on enough parties to garner 68 seats, Katz said.

The centrist Yesh Atid party, less than a year old, made an impressive debut in its first election, receiving 19 Knesset seats to become the second largest member of the new government.

The Jewish Home Party, which supports the expansion of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian West Bank territory, also signed on to the coalition. So did "The Movement" of Tzipi Livni, another centrist party.

Livni, a former opposition leader, foreign minister and justice minister, will again serve in the justice minister post. Her party was the first to join Netanyahu's coalition.

As top priorities for the new government, the prime minister named fiscal responsibility, lowering the cost of living in Israel and containing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report

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