Deal ends 17-month political crisis * Plan calls for annexation in July * Residences for both prime ministers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz sign a unity government agreement (photo credit: Courtesy)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz sign a unity government agreement (photo credit: Courtesy)


Israel will soon have a new coalition government after an agreement was signed on Monday evening between Likud and Blue and White, putting an end to a 17-month political stalemate that resulted in three elections.

As part of the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has served as caretaker prime minister since December 2018, will remain prime minister for another 18 months and then will be replaced in October 2021 by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who will serve as vice prime minister in the meantime. Netanyahu will become vice prime minister under Gantz after that – but if he leaves the Prime Minister’s Office sooner, Gantz will take over.

“I promised the State of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save lives and livelihoods of Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.

Gantz expressed his relief that an election – which would have been held on August 4 if a deal was not reached by May 7 – had been averted.

“We prevented a fourth election,” Gantz said. “We will protect our democracy and fight against the coronavirus.”

US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, including its clauses enabling Israel to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, will be able to be implemented in July, when maps are set to be finalized.

In a controversial clause, both Netanyahu and Gantz will have the right to an official residence fully funded by the state. In another, the so-called Norwegian Law will be changed to allow ministers to quit and new MKs to enter the Knesset, including in Blue and White, skipping over MKs from the Yesh Atid and Telem parties that will remain in the opposition.

The Likud and its satellite parties will receive the Finance, Health, Internal Security, Construction, Transportation and Education portfolios. Blue and White will receive the Defense, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Economy, Communications and Culture portfolios. The Knesset speaker will be from Likud.

The government is expected to have 36 ministers and 16 deputies, split equally between the Center-Right and Center Left. Besides Likud and Blue and White, the government will include Shas, United Torah Judaism, Labor and the Gesher Party of MK Orly Levy-Abecassis.

It was unclear on Monday evening if Yamina would join the coalition. Netanyahu spoke to party leader Naftali Bennett and agreed to meet as early as Tuesday night. He also spoke to Education Minister Rafi Peretz, who is unlikely to keep his post.

“Netanyahu is showing us the door out,” a source in Yamina said.

Among the ministers from Blue and White, Gantz will replace Bennett as defense minister, MK and former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi will be foreign minister, MK Avi Nissenkorn will be justice minister and MK Alon Schuster agriculture minister. MK Pnina Tamano-Shata is expected to be the first Ethiopian-born minister; Omer Yankelevich the first haredi (ultra-Orthodox) female minister; and Gantz is expected to appoint an Arab professor as a minister.

If Labor joins the government, MKs Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli will be given socioeconomic portfolios, as will Levy-Abecassis. Shas and United Torah Judaism will keep their current portfolios.

The ministerial appointments were less clear in Likud, where Netanyahu will have to decide what current ministers to demote and which to send abroad to be ambassadors to the United States and in the United Nations. But head of the Likud’s negotiating team Yariv Levin will be Knesset speaker, Israel Katz will be finance minister, Miri Regev internal security minister and Gila Gamliel will be promoted.

MK Yoaz Hendel – who prevented the formation of a Gantz-led government, is backed from outside the coalition by the Joint List and is expected to be a minister – said the new government formed was the best of all possible alternatives.

Meretz faction chairwoman Tamar Zandberg blasted the new government and Gantz in particular.
“The man who was supposed to be the prime minister who would bring change, decided to raise a white flag instead of winning,” she said. “Gantz destroyed the hope of a majority of Israelis and sold the mandate that the majority gave him to a corrupt inciter. This is not an emergency government but there is an emergency situation for our democracy.”

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel and other watchdog groups petitioned the High Court of Justice late Monday, demanding that the court prevent Netanyahu from forming a government, due to his criminal indictments.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post