Deal reached: Gantz and Netanyahu sign unity agreement

The agreement was reached on Monday afternoon despite reports that the talks had “exploded.”

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

Against what appeared all odds, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz signed an agreement for a unity government. The breakthrough came late Monday shortly before the start of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The agreement brings to a close a political crisis that has lasted a year-and-a-half and has led to an unprecedented three consecutive elections in Israel.

Netanyahu will serve as prime minister on a rotational basis. Netanyahu will start in the role for 18 months. Gantz will take over in October 2021.

Netanyahu appears to have won a victory on the matter of the Judicial Selections Committee, one of the key sticking points. The Likud will have a majority on that committee, which picks judges to the Supreme Court, Israel’s Channel 11 reports. Netanyahu also will have a veto over senior appointments.

The government that will emerge will include up to 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers.

Ynet reports that Blue and White will receive the ministries for defense, justice, aliyah and integration, culture and sports, finance, economy, communications, agriculture, strategic affairs, tourism, social equality and diaspora affairs.

The foreign ministry will be split between Blue and White and Likud with each party running it for half the government’s term.

Likud will receive the ministries of treasury, interior, transportation, housing, education, environmental protection, energy, Jerusalem affairs, and other smaller portfolios.

The Likud will run several key committees, including finance, labor and welfare and immigration and absorption. It will also run the constitution, law and justice committee and the special committee dealing with the corona crisis.

The ambassador to the UN will come from the Likud party.

One of the portfolios will be given to Orly Levi-Abekasis of the Gesher party, who split from the Labor-Meretz-Gesher faction and joined with the right-wing bloc.

All may not be clear sailing for Netanyahu, however. Given the major committees that have been handed to Blue and White, problems may arise among the Likud’s right-wing partners. Yemina, led by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, has requested three portfolios in exchange for its participation in the government. The party has made it plain that it opposes handing the justice ministry to Blue and White.

The agreement came as a surprise to most media pundits. On Monday morning, it appeared that talks had reached a dead end after Gantz walked out on a meeting with Netanyahu.

Gantz then signaled he would push forward with legislation targeting Netanyahu in the Knesset, a move the Likud said would spell the end of negotiations.

The collapsing talks encouraged those members of Gantz’s party who split with him over his decision to enter a unity government with Netanyahu. Moshe Ya’alon, a former political partner, urged him to cut off the talks.

Avigdor Liberman of the Israel Beiteinu party tweeted earlier on Sunday, “Benny Gantz, this is your moment of truth. As someone who knows Netanyahu better than anyone, I estimate that he won’t sign a coalition deal with you, not today, not tomorrow.”