29 March 2020 Gantz and Netanyahu seek a unity government amid the coronavirus pandemic

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the recently elected Parliament Speaker Benny Gantz announced that they made meaningful progress toward forming an emergency unity government amid the novel coronavirus pandemic in a meeting held between 28 and 29 March. Unity talks started after Gantz was elected as Speaker of the Knesset on 26 March, with the backing of Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc and the partial support of its own Blue and White party. The election of Gantz, who was chosen to form a new government on 15 March, triggered the break-up of the Blue and White alliance and came about just one day after the resignation of former Likud’s Parliament Speaker Yuli Edelstein, following tensions with Israel’s Supreme Court since he refused to schedule the vote for a new Speaker. Further talks are to be held between Gantz and Netanyahu, in order to finalise the details of an imminent unity government. Under the emerging power-sharing agreement, Netanyahu and Gantz would rotate as Israel’s Prime Minister, with the latter taking over in October 2021 and serving as Defense Minister until then. Under the agreement, Gantz would secure other strategic portfolios – such as Foreign Affairs, Justice, Communications, Economy, Agriculture, Welfare, Tourism and Science -, while Netanyahu would retain control over Finance, Public Security, Transportation, Education, Health, Interior, Energy, Religious Affairs, Intelligence, Housing and Construction, among others. If a unity government deal is finally reached, it will put an end to the political deadlock that has sent the country to three consecutive parliamentary elections in less than a year.