The threat of a fourth election in Israel appears to have been averted after the large opposition party “Blue and White” suddenly broke up on Thursday, with party leader Benny Gantz agreeing to bring his faction (Blue and White was made up of three parties) into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.
Gantz said his surprise about-face (he had campaigned on a platform that was overtly hostile toward Netanyahu) was the result of his conviction that amid the coronavirus crisis, unity is more important than politics.
In return, Netanyahu’s Likud and the rest of the right-wing bloc voted Gantz to become the next Speaker of the Knesset.
In what Israeli media called a political earthquake, this unexpected deal was too much for Gantz’s “Blue and White” partners, and both Yesh Atid (headed by Yair Lapid) and Telem (headed by Moshe Yaalon) filed to dissolve the alliance and vowed to lead a vicious opposition.
Lapid and Yaalon held a press conference later in the day, accusing Gantz of “crawling” into Netanyahu’s government, and thereby breaking his most important promise to voters.
While there is not yet an official coalition agreement, the arrangement that is emerging will see Israel establish a three-year emergency government in which Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for one-and-a-half years, and Gantz will assume the premiership during the second half.
At the end of September 2021, Netanyahu will after more than a decade at the post step down as Israel’s prime minister and hand over the reins to his bitter rival.
With Blue and White splitting, Gantz brings only 15 seats to Netanyahu’s coalition, but will nevertheless be given the top ministerial posts of Defense, Foreign Affairs and Justice.
While many questions remain, including whether or not such a partnership will endure, the one thing that seems certain for now is that Israeli citizens will not be forced to go to the polls for the fourth time in 18 months.
Israel’s political stalemate has reached a dramatic conclusion that very few saw coming, and the nation can now turn its full focus toward real problems like overcoming the coronavirus and stabilizing Israel’s economy amidst a crippling nationwide quarantine.
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