Binyamin Netanyahu (left) and Benny Gantz. (US State Department; Reuven Kapochinsky/Israel Resilience Party)

Netanyahu, Gantz Present Unity Gov’t to Israel’s Parliament

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz presented their national unity government to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in a stormy session on Sunday. The Knesset is set to hold a vote approving of the government, after which the new ministers will be sworn in. This ends more than 500 days of political paralysis and three deadlocked elections that failed to produce a clear winner. The national unity deal, which narrowly averted the need for a fourth election, will see Netanyahu serve 18 months as prime minister, during which Gantz will hold the office of alternate prime minister. Gantz will then take over as PM for the next 18 months, with Netanyahu serving as alternate PM. The cabinet will be the largest in Israel’s history, comprising 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers, with equal representation for those affiliated with Gantz and those aligned with Netanyahu. Gantz, a former military chief of staff, will be defense minister under Netanyahu’s premiership, while his Blue and White party colleague, Gabi Ashkenazi, another former military chief, will be foreign minister. The new finance minister, Israel Katz, is a Netanyahu loyalist in the Likud. The new government has set managing the coronavirus crisis and its severe economic fallout as chief goals. It also intends to consider annexation of the Jordan Valley and West Bank settlement blocs, which has been given conditional support from the administration of US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, will face an immediate and significant legal challenge during his tenure: He has been indicted on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust and will go on trial starting next week.

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