Netanyahu, Gantz agree to form government

 

Major political developments occurred in Israel overnight, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from the Likud, and his rival, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party announcing an agreement on a national unity and national emergency government.

The deal effectively puts an end to an unprecedented political impasse which has seen no duly-elected government in Israel since December 2018, and an unprecedented three inconclusive elections in 11 months.

Seeds of the deal began as early as March 12, when Netanyahu and Gantz agreed on the need for a national unity government, and picked up the pace on March 26, with Gantz choosing to split his party over the thorny issue of whether to serve in a rotational government led by Netanyahu – a prime minister under indictment – rather than force new elections.

The agreement was further delayed over haggling on final details, including how judicial appointments would be managed.

Under the terms of the pact, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for the first half of the government’s term, which would be set at three years. Gantz will serve as defence minister and vice prime minister under Netanyahu and Netanyahu has agreed to serve as vice prime minister under Gantz.

According to the 41-clause agreement, the first six months of the government would be considered an emergency government to manage the catastrophic effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on the country.

The agreement calls for the appointment of a record 36 ministers, to be evenly spread between Likud, Blue and White, and their respective political allies. Blue and White is expected to be joined in the government by centre-left stablemate Labor, while the Likud would bring in the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism and Gesher Party leader Orly Levy-Abecassis. The national-religious rightist Yamina party is still deciding whether to join Netanyahu’s bloc in the government.

Meanwhile, Yair Lapid, leader of the secularist Yesh Atid party which left Blue and White over the national unity talks, is expected to lead the opposition in the Knesset. Rounding out the opposition will be the mostly Arab and far-left Joint List, and the progressive-left Meretz and the secularist Yisrael Beitenu parties.