Ending almost a year and a half of political deadlock, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party have sealed a coalition deal that would see a new government in place soon. The coalition deal allows Netanyahu to lead the government first for 18 months before he makes way for Gantz in a rotation agreement, further extending his record as the longest-serving premier in Israel's history.
A joint statement by Blue and White and Netanyahu's ruling Likud party said that the agreement was to form a national emergency government, apparently to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. "We prevented fourth elections. We'll safeguard democracy, Gantz tweeted shortly after the announcement was made. We'll fight the coronavirus and look out for all Israeli citizens. We have a national emergency government, he asserted.
As per local media reports, the deal will be signed formally after Independence Day next week. The details of the deal were not made public yet but media reports said that Netanyahu managed to persuade Gantz to agree to all his key demands, including a veto on the appointments of the next Attorney General and the State Prosecutor. The beleaguered Prime Minister, indicted in a series of cases of graft and breach of trust, is set to face trial beginning May 24.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had entrusted Gantz to form a government after 61 out of 120 newly elected members of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in March 2 polls backed him to lead the next government. Gantz, a former Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff, failed to put a coalition together in the allotted 28 days time, and even in the following 48 hours of extension. The President sent the mandate back to the Knesset to choose a leader to form a government with majority support within 21 days. Failure to do so would have resulted in a fourth round of polls.
Israelis voted last month for the third time in less than a year to break the deadlock on government formation. The country has always had a coalition government and never seen a single party rule since its independence. The religious parties, themselves a divided lot but definitely on the Right side of the political spectrum, have always been a part of the coalition governments except one led by Ariel Sharon.
Netanyahu, 70, in July last year surpassed the record of longest-serving Prime Minister of the country held by one of the founding fathers of the Jewish state, David Ben-Gurion.
(with PTI inputs)