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20 Apr, 2020 16:24

Israeli PM Netanyahu and rival Gantz agree to form ‘unity’ government to avoid another election

Israeli PM Netanyahu and rival Gantz agree to form ‘unity’ government to avoid another election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reached an agreement with rival Benny Gantz to form a ‘unity government’ which would finally break a year of political deadlock, Israeli media has reported.

In a statement, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Gantz’s centrist-liberal Blue and White party said they had agreed on a unity deal following elections in September and March which saw neither side winning a large enough majority to form a government.

According to Israeli media reports, Netanyahu and Gantz will hold the position of prime minister on a rotating basis. Netanyahu will serve as PM first for 18 months before Gantz takes the helm for another 18 months.

The two party heads began talks on government formation last month, and the move was seen by many of Gantz’s supporters as a betrayal. The Blue and White leader reportedly met with Netanyahu for two hours on Monday morning in a final effort to reach an agreement. The PM pushed the concept of forming a national emergency government for weeks, but Gantz was reluctant to go for the idea.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin last week put the task of forming a new government in the hands of the Knesset (parliament), which meant any lawmaker who could pull together 61 signatories could form a coalition government. If no deal had been made, Israel would have faced another election in around 90 days.

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Netanyahu is facing multiple bribery and fraud cases, with his trial expected to begin on May 24. Gantz and other critics of the current PM have accused him of trying to use the Covid-19 crisis to delay the trial, which was initially set for March 17.

The pair have disagreed on key issues including their approach to the recently unveiled US Peace to Prosperity vision for the resolution of conflict with Palestine. They have also squabbled over which party would take control of senior cabinet positions.

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