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Israels Netanyahu and rival Gantz agree to form emergency coalition government

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Issued on: 20/04/2020 – 18:45Modified: 20/04/2020 – 18:45

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival on Monday signed an agreement to form an “emergency” coalition government, their parties announced in a joint statement.

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The deal between Netanyahus Likud Party and former military chief Benny Gantzs Blue and White ends months of political paralysis and averts what would have been a fourth consecutive election in just over a year.

Terms of the agreement werent immediately announced. But Israeli media said it called for a three-year period with Netanyahu serving as prime minister for the first half, and Gantz taking the job for the second half.

After the last vote on March 2 ended in a stalemate, Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz agreed late last month to try to form a unity government because of the burgeoning coronavirus crisis. The talks have dragged on and stalled several times since, reportedly over Netanyahus personal legal problems, sparking concern that the collapse of a deal would force the country into new elections.

Although Netanyahu repeatedly came up short in the last elections, the coalition agreement returns the long-serving leader to the premiership, defying critics who predicted his downfall and restoring his reputation as a political wizard.

The deal likely required major compromise by both men. During three bitter campaigns over the past year, Gantz and his Blue and White party vowed never to serve in a government under Netanyahu so long as he faces a slew of corruption charges. Netanyahu, meanwhile, would likely be forced to step aside and allow Gantz to serve as prime minister for part of the time, if the coalition manages to survive long enough.

Sticking points

Negotiations between the two leaders largely revolved around Netanyahu's corruption trial set to start next month. Main sticking points included a demand by the prime minister to have more say on judicial appointments, which could play a role if his case eventually reaches the Supreme Court.

Last months election, just like the campaigns last September and April, ended with no clear winner. But with a slight majority of lawmakers endorsing him, Gantz was given the first shot at building a coalition government.

The glue holding together Gantz's different backers was their shared animosity toward Netanyahu. The opposition leader had begun to move forward with legislation that would have disqualified the indicted Netanyahu from serving as prime minister in the future.

But with the virus crisis worsening, and his own shaky alliance fraying, Gantz made an about-face late last month and accepted an offer from Netanyahu to pursue a joint government to deal with the pandemic. The move drew heavy criticism from Gantzs supporters and tore apart his Blue and White alliance, leaving him with a faction roughly half its original size.

Negotiations have continued even after Gantz allotted time to build a coalition ended last week, with the president now giving the Knesset until May 7 to select a candidate for prime minister. If a majority of legislators fails to choose a candidate, the Knesset would automaticaRead More – Source