GP Insights # 344, 25 April 2020
On April 23 the Knesset gave its preliminary approval to the coalition deal agreed between the head of Blue and White, Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The coalition deal signed on April 20 led to the formation of an emergency National Unity government which will formally enable the rotation of the seat of the Prime Minister between Netanyahu and Gantz every 18 months, respectively. Gantz, in his address to the parliament, stated that the government would work effectively in combating the coronavirus, enable the budget to be passed and ensure that the justice system can operate soundly and freely.
The coalition government has come as a shock to many as both the Blue and White Party of Gantz and the Likud party of Netanyahu were against each other, delivering the worst criticisms during the three tough election campaigns last year. Another reason for the wave of restlessness among the Israelis is the outcome of the coalition before the trial of corruption charges against Benjamin Netanyahu.
What is the background?
A caretaker government led Israel since December 2018, when the 20th Knesset dissolved. Since then, three consecutive elections have failed to result in forming a new government, creating an unprecedented political crisis.
The coalition government emerged when President Reuven Rivlin informed Benny Gantz that the mandate period to choose a new prime minister has expired. This government has purely stemmed out due to the existing COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, bringing uncertainty to the politics of Israel. Both political parties realized the implications of prolonging the political instability if a minority government or a fourth election was conducted in such circumstances.
What does it mean?
First, although the current government now holds a majority to dictate what Israel wants, the response to the coalition is mixed. Netanyahu’s trial, which commences from May 24, can have a significant influence in predicting the future of the coalition as well. If found guilty, Netanyahu will have to step down. However since he will be in office for the majority of the trial period, which may take one to three years, Netanyahu may exert his influence in either delaying the trial or getaway without any charges.
Second, there is a high possibility that Netanyahu may continue with the “deal of the century” with the support of the Trump government in extending Israel’s sovereignty into the West Bank. Despite the UN and the EU’s warning, Netanyahu is likely to proceed with this since he now has a majority in the Knesset. If the Knesset does not give its approval, then the continuation of the deal entirely depends upon the outcome of the US elections due in November.