JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday appointed hard-line politician Naftali Bennett as defense minister in his caretaker government.
The move appears aimed at shoring up opposition to attempts by Netanyahu's chief rival, Benny Gantz, to form Israel's next government.
Ayelet Shaked of Bennett's New Right party, a former justice minister, confirmed that the party has accepted the defense portfolio for Bennett. The appointment will need the government's approval and Netanyahu's Cabinet is to meet on Sunday.
Neither leader has been capable of forming a coalition government with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party, which has refused to endorse either candidate and instead called for a national unity government.
However, unity talks have repeatedly stalled, in part because of Netanyahu's legal troubles.
The embattled Netanyahu, who until Friday has also held the post of defense minister, is facing possible indictment of corruption charges that threaten his political career. He has demanded that he head a unity government, a position in which he would be poised to battle any criminal charges. Gantz says he can't sit with a Netanyahu-led Cabinet in which the prime minister faces six serious legal troubles.
Bennett has in the past called for tougher military action against Gaza militants. He is also an advocate of settlement building in the West Bank.
Israel's Haaretz daily reported that the New Party will be merging with Netanyahu's Likud.