Graft-indicted Netanyahu Forms Israeli Government with Rival

Signed between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival-turned-ally Benny Gantz on Monday night, the agreement stipulates the division of power between the two, with Netanyahu to occupy the PM's chair first and Gantz taking his seat a year and a half later.

Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, had squared off against Gantz in three inconclusive elections over the past year, but neither had secured enough support to form a viable governing coalition.

During Netanyahu's remaining time in office, Gantz will serve as Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, before coming to power next fall.

Yet again, neither Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, nor Blue and White leader Benny Gantz have been able to fashion a coalition government after the third general election within a year.

While the government was ostensibly formed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 170 Israelis and ravaged the economy, negotiations revolved largely around Netanyahu's corruption trial, set to start next month.

Terms of the agreement weren't immediately announced. "Relations with the U.S. administration will remain strong-but Bibi would be wise to tread lightly as the United States heads into an election in November, including dispatching Gantz to engage Democratic interlocutors". Will the prime minister make good on his pledge to annex some of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank?

COVID-19, which erupted in Israel at the end of February and which has claimed more than 170 lives, has also posed a serious economic challenge. Commenting on the agreement, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh stressed that this is "the end of the two-state solution and the dismantling of the rights of the Palestinian people, according to the provisions of global law and resolutions".

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Mr Gantz's side will hold the defence, justice and foreign affairs portfolios, among others, while health, interior and finance will go to Mr Netanyahu's camp.

The governing coalition will also include a bloc of Jewish ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties, which sit in Netanyahu's current government. Yossi Klein Helavi, one of the country's wisest and most even-handed political analysts, discusses Israel's protracted political gridlock, and the uncertain future of the peace process and two-state solution, as Netanyahu's trial on corruption charges looms next week. "We will fight coronavirus and care for all Israel's citizens".

In Australia, Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director of The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, told J-Wire: "AIJAC welcomes the establishment of the new national emergency government in Israel to face both the huge challenges of the coronavirus crisis and Israel's other immediate economic and strategic imperatives".

Palestinians condemned the formation of an "Israeli "annexation" government, saying the agreement would wreck hopes of peace".

"This is Gantz's and Ashkanzi's only contribution to the war against unemployment", Ofer Shelah, a lawmaker with Yesh Atid, a centrist party and Gantz's former partner, wrote on Twitter. The Knesset, or parliament, had been given until May 7 to select a candidate for prime minister.

The prime minister was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in January and some experts had predicted he would seek to win a parliamentary majority to push through legislation protecting him from prosecution.

  • Sonia Alvarado