Israeli parliament approves formation of Netanyahu-Gantz ‘national emergency government,’ avoiding fourth election


The Israeli Parliament approved legislation which clears the way for political rivals Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to form a national unity government, in which the two leaders will hold the office of PM on a rotating basis.

The Knesset (parliament) endorsed the formation of the jointly-led Netanyahu-Gantz government by 71 votes to 37 on Thursday, in a move that will ultimately end more than a year of political deadlock and avoid a dreaded fourth election in a row.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party had said in a statement on Wednesday that the new government will be sworn in next week if the Knesset approved the coalition deal.

Under the agreement, Netanyahu will continue in the role of prime minister for the next 18 months before being replaced by Gantz.

The deal between the erstwhile rivals was signed on April 20 after neither Likud or the Blue and White Party managed to independently form a governing coalition in the 120-member Knesset.

On Wednesday, Israel’s highest court unanimously gave Netanyahu the green light to form a “national emergency government,” despite the fact that he is facing trial on numerous fraud and corruption charges. Netanyahu was indicted for breach of trust and accepting bribes and for fraud in November 2019.

The court ruled there was not “any legal reason” to prevent Netanyahu from forming a government but said the decision did not “diminish the severity” of the charges against him. His trial is expected to begin on May 24.

One case against the PM relates to accepting and making demands for gifts from business people over a number of years. Another relates to an alleged bid to negotiate with a newspaper publisher for more favorable news coverage in exchange for legislative attempts to weaken the news organization’s main competitor.

The revelations sparked outrage and protests in Israel. Last month demonstrators, adhering to social-distancing rules, filled Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest the unity government deal, saying it allowed the caretaker PM off the hook on corruption charges.