GP Insights # 353, 9 May 2020
On 6 May, Israel's Supreme Court upheld the ruling coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Blue and White party leader Benny Ganz. The court's approval came despite the allegations of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, and corruption charges against Netanyahu. Maintaining an ambiguous stand on Netanyahu's accusations, the Supreme Court maintained that it could not intervene and found no legal basis to prevent the Knesset member Netanyahu from forming the government.
While the decision has sparked anger amongst the opposition parties, it clears the way for Netanyahu to retain his position. He will still face the indictment trial on 24 May, which will have another impact on the coalition deal.
What is the background?
There was a political tussle between the two leaders and their parties. Finally, the three-year coalition deal signed on 20 April between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. Both have agreed on a power-sharing for the initial 18 months with Netanyahu as the Prime Minister and Gantz as the Deputy Minister.
In the next 18 months, Benny Gantz will take the position of Prime Minister. The power-sharing deal between both the parties came after they failed thrice to get enough seats to assemble a government. While the Likud party faced criticisms of favouring its party members over public good during the pandemic, the Blue and White party lacked the political reputation and numbers in spite of having a high possibility and public favouritism of winning the election. In dismay, Gantz signed the deal with Netanyahu to gain the power to prove his leadership.
Netanyahu used this deal as an opportune moment to remain in power while his position could be cut short through the corruption accusations. He has tactfully used the COVID-19 pandemic to influence the public and stitch a convincing arrangement to shift the opposition leader in alliance and most significantly the court's approval to keep him in power.
What does it mean?
The main obstacle between Netanyahu and the leadership has been settled now and will have three implications. First, the stability of the coalition government remains uncertain. The partnership of both governments has benefited Netanyahu. But within the members of the Likud party, there is a dilemma whether to support the leader who is facing a trial that may or may not be in favour of the party's political image. While in the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz seemed to have broken the trust among his followers by signing the deal with Netanyahu. This has led the supporting parties to misinterpret Gantz's loyalty in the party.
Second, the coalition has agreed to bring legislation from 1 July for the annexation of the West Bank. The approval of power to Netanyahu and his strong relations with the US President Donald Trump will be more than enough for the leader to carry out the annexation.
Third, it is a clear opportunity for Netanyahu to rehab the charges alleged against him. The indictment trial is expected to continue for two years. While the tenure of the Prime Minister is for 18 months, it is predictable that the position of Prime Minister will not be affected. This can lead to the further scuttling of the corruption charges by Netanyahu in order to keep him in power in future.