Netanyahu, Gantz Ink Unity Deal, But Knesset Still Has Not Picked New PM; Opposition Challenges Formation of Government, Changes In Law In Court

Israel has a new government … maybe. Although Interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and While Chairman Benny Gantz inked a coalition deal two weeks ago, the Knesset still must approve it, and that event has yet to occur. If the new government is not approved by May 7, Israel will go to a fourth round of elections. Reported by The Times of Israel [Blog entry].Read more…

Netanyahu and Gantz reached a deal two weeks ago after weeks of negotiations. A statement issued by Blue and White and Likud said the deal was for a “national unity government.” Gantz tweeted later that “We prevent fourth elections. We’ll safeguard democracy.” A formal deal was expected to be signed on Israel’s Independence Day, April 28-29, 2020. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

More Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

More Reported by Fox News. Read more…

According to the agreement, the government will last for 36-months. Netanyahu will remain prime minister for the first 18-months and then hand power over to Gantz. Each will be the other’s “acting prime minister.” After July 1 Netanyahu will be allowed to ask the Knesset to vote on annexing portions of the West Bank. Otherwise, during the first six months the unity government will focus on the coronavirus, passing only legislation related to the virus. The Ultra-Orthodox blocs scored a significant victory—they, not the government will be allowed to set quotas for IDF conscription among ultra-Orthodox males. The new justice minister will be Blue and White MK Avi Nissenkorn, and the new speaker will be Likud’s Yariv Levin. The new government will have 32 ministers divided equally between Netanyahu’s and Gantz’s blocs, later expanding to 36 after the coronavirus crisis passes. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Further reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

It is anticipated that the new unity government will be not only the largest, but the most expensive, in Israel’s history. The expected cost is about $51 million USD a year. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

New poll shows that 62 percent of Israelis support the unity government, while only 22 percent oppose it. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, tweeted his satisfaction with the unity government, saying “Delighted to see that Israel’s two leading political parties, led by PM Netanyahu & MK Gantz, have agreed to form a unity government. The United States looks forward to working closely with the new gov’t to advance our shared values and interests bilaterally and across the world.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Not everyone is happy with the deal. Thousands of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv to protest alleged erosion of Israeli democracy. Yesh Atid-Telem leaders Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon both accused Netanyahu of destroying Israeli democracy. They blasted their former ally Benny Gantz, saying that he allowed it to happen by joining Netanyahu in the unity government. Lapid was particularly fierce in his denouncement, saying, “They are fighting to get into the government. Telling themselves stories. They say, ‘We’ll fight from the inside.’ You won’t fight from the inside. You don’t fight corruption from within. If you’re inside, you’re part of it.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Although he successfully struck a deal with Gantz, Netanyahu is still wooing Naftali Bennett, Israel’s current defense minister and head of the Yamina party. Bennett was reportedly undecided about whether to join the unity government or sit in the opposition. Netanyahu spoke with Bennett two days after signing the agreement with Gantz. Bennett has said he wants Yamina to be in the government, but “only if the ship is sailing in the same direction more or less that we find acceptable.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

However, Yamina has said that it does not intend to join the unity government. Announcing its decision, Yamina said, “Netanyahu is showing us the way out.” According to party representatives, they are disappointed they did not receive a judicial appointment. Yamina also said the Likud has compromised on a set of ideological matters. Reported by Haaretz. Read more…

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, wrote Israel’s high court saying that there was no legal obstacle to Netanyahu forming a government despite the criminal charges pending against him. Mandelblit also wrote, “Despite the significant difficulties that arise in this matter, they do not constitute grounds for judicial intervention.” The court was expected to hear argument in response to a petition filed to block Netanyahu from forming a government. Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

The Knesset quickly began moving to approve the power-sharing deal through legislation. The Knesset approved the first reading of the bill by a 72-31 margin. Even as the bill advances, Israel’s high court has been asked to consider whether such steps are constitutional. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel’s high court spent Sunday listening to arguments for and against Netanyahu being allowed to form a government while under indictment. The court’s chief justice, Esther Hayut pressed Netanyahu’s opposition for some law, verdict, or other precedent for intervening in the Knesset’s process for selecting a prime minister, signaling the court will likely allow Netanyahu to go forward. More arguments are scheduled, and the court will also consider whether laws being passed in the Knesset to allow Netanyahu to form a unity government are constitutional. Some of the legislation makes significant changes to Israel’s constitutional order and Israeli law. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…