Israel : Government of National Unity Afoot

Except last minutes changes, a government of national unity is expected to see the light of day in the hours or days ahead with Benny Gantz at the head. This is one of the major fallouts of a high level consultation talks that took place between the head of the Likud Party Benjamin Netanyahu and the Blue and White bloc headed by Benny Gantz in the presence of the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin.

The decision which was made public on Sunday, March 15, 2020 comes after a series of consultations with leaders of all political parties elected to parliament by the president, the ability of the Blue and White leader to secure the support of 61 lawmakers in the 120-member parliament (Knesset) and threat from the coronavirus with over 200 confirmed cases, but no deaths. Speaking at a meeting with President Rivlin, Joint List head Ayman Odeh said its voters have said « an emphatic ‘no’ to a right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu ». The Joint List is now the third-biggest party in the Israeli parliament, after achieving a record showing in the March 2 election.

Mr Odeh said, his coalition would not join a government led by Gantz, but could potentially provide it enough votes to govern. About a fifth of Israeli citizens are Palestinian by heritage but Israeli by citizenship. But no Israeli government has ever included an Arab political party. On the heels of the head of the Joint List, was Mr Avigdor Liberman, kingmaker of the ultranationalist, but secular Yisrael Beiteinu party, who also threw his weight behind Gantz for a new government.

The new opportunity given to Benny Gantz to form a government follows Israel’s third inconclusive elections in a year that took place in 2 March without any political deadlock. His rival Mr Netanyahu, 70, is Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister. He is seeking a record fifth term, having been in office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009. During the election campaign he presented himself as the only candidate who could guarantee the country’s security, despite facing a trial on corruption charges that he denies. The trial, that was due to start on Monday, has been postponed for at least two months because of the coronavirus crisis.

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