Isreal: Political uncertainty over as Netanyahu, Gantz team up to form government

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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.

In a surprising move, Gantz has entered into precarious political compromises, whereby he would become the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), as a prelude to the formation of a national unity government which will include the ruling Likud party and Blue and White. According to an override clause, should the top court void the coalition agreement or bar Netanyahu from serving as prime minister due to his criminal indictment, new elections will immediately be scheduled.

With both politicians being called upon to avoid a fourth election as the country battles coronavirus, this latest agreement may come as a huge relief to many tired Israelis.

Ending weeks of negotiations, the sides have announced a deal.

Pressure has mounted on politicians to finally form a government after three inconclusive elections, both to avoid a costly fourth round and to tackle the coronavirus which has killed more than 180 people in Israel.

While the coalition will serve as an "emergency government" for the first six months and Gantz's party will take control of the key ministries in the following period, experts are concerned about Palestinians' situation as no laws will be introduced during the first initial period except the US President Trump's so-called Middle East Plan, which includes annexing Jordan Valley, illegal Jewish settlements and other territories under occupation which have been violating global law.

Israelis hold posters with the picture of Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party, that read: "I would not sit in a government under a man with criminal indictment", as they protest against Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under strict restrictions made to slow down the coronavirus spread, on Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel April 19, 2020. "We will protect democracy".

Stay the course, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.
There are now 119 people with the virus in the province who are hospitalized and 52 of those people are in critical care. COVID-19 cases have plateaued and started to decline in terms of hospitalization", Dix said.

More than 180 Israelis have died of the virus so far, with nearly 14,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19.

"Gantz had more to lose, and he was facing a growing gap with his supporters", said Dr. Yonatan Freeman, from the Political Science Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The deal also allows Netanyahu to introduce legislation this July that would annex parts of the West Bank.

"We have never seen anything so personal", said Jonathan Rynhold, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University of how so much of Israeli politics has bent around Netanyahu's determined quest to hang onto power.

Gantz's party will take control of a number of senior government ministries, including foreign affairs and defence, but Netanyahu's party will gain influence over judicial appointments - a key demand of the prime minister as he prepares to go on trial.

He also warned that the new coalition government is not "an emergency or a national unity government", claiming that Netanyahu and Gantz did not talk about coronavirus or the economy, but "about themselves and their jobs". "We will fight coronavirus and care for all Israel's citizens", Gantz said on Twitter after signing the deal. Netanyahu hopes to use the achievement to carve his name in the annals of Israel's political right.

Netanyahu is awaiting trial on charges of accepting bribes, breach of trust and fraud. Several petitions against the agreement have already been presented to the Supreme Court and there is no guarantee that the justices will greenlight the deal in its current form.

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