Published: 10:33, May 11, 2020 | Updated: 02:53, June 6, 2023
Netanyahu poised to form govt under power-sharing agreement
By Xinhua

In this photo taken on March 8, 2020 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (PHOTO / AFP)

JERUSALEM — After securing support from a majority of lawmakers last week and jumping over several legal hurdles, sitting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will continue his fifth term in office as he prepares to swear in his government in the coming days.

The new government comes after over a year of political stalemate and three consecutive elections which led to inconclusive results. 

After weeks of political negotiations, Netanyahu who leads the Likud party reached an agreement with his main rival Benny Gantz who leads the Blue and White party. On Sunday, Netanyahu met with members of his party and other coalition partners in order to assign cabinet portfolios. 

The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus after the third election was what brought the sides to finally reach consensus after a year of paralysis.

People are extremely frustrated by the size of the government. The rehabilitation of the economy will be the main task of the government.

Eran Vigoda-Gadot, Professor of political science and governance at the University of Haifa

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The country, which has been under a care-taker government for a lengthy period, is now facing a major crisis and lack of a permanent government has made policy and budget decisions difficult.

Netanyahu and Gantz vowed to cooperate in order to lead the country through the crisis, including the major economic fallout which is now over-shadowing the health crisis.

A total of 248 Israelis have died of the virus and over 16,400 people have contracted it. After weeks of severe lockdown measures, the economy is gradually being jump-started again. Unemployment has reached a record high and there are many problems to be dealt with, including preparation for a possible second wave of the pandemic.

Before the outbreak of the virus, Netanyahu and Gantz had failed to reach an agreement despite several attempts. Netanyahu faces three indictments of corruption and is scheduled to appear in court at the end of this month. From the beginning of his political career, Gantz vowed not to sit in a government with a leader under indictment. 

Three election campaigns later, Israel found itself at an impasse. In the latest March 2 election, Netanyahu fell just a few mandates short of grasping the 61-member majority needed to rule the 120-member Knesset. Gantz was also incapable of forming a coalition and decided to turn on his single most prominent campaign promise that was not to serve with Netanyahu.

Gantz's U-turn led to the disintegration of his party, leaving him to lead just his faction with 15 members, less than half of the original list. The circumstances led to a major change.

The new government is slated to be the largest in Israel's history with between 34 to 36 ministerial portfolios. The excess comes at a time when the projections for the Israeli economy are that it will shrink in 2020 and there are approximately one million unemployed people. 

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"People are extremely frustrated by the size of the government," Eran Vigoda-Gadot, a professor of political science and governance at the University of Haifa, "The rehabilitation of the economy will be the main task of the government."

According to the deal, only until after the COVID-19 crisis is over, the government can pass legislation on other major issues. The sides agreed that Israel could begin to move on annexation of parts of the West Bank as early as July 2020 as part of the implementation of the US peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians. Gantz and Netanyahu seem to have little differences on the matter. 

"Netanyahu will be looking for moves that will strengthen his position as the only one who can lead and deliver so that it will project on the judicial process and somehow save him," said Vigoda-Gadot, who believes Netanyahu will push for annexation as a diversion from his legal woes.