Israel's Netanyahu, rival Gantz sign unity government deal, ending long impasse

Vehicles wait to cross the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron Michigan to Sarnia Ontario

Vehicles wait to cross the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron Michigan to Sarnia Ontario

Benny Gantz, the former army chief and head of the Blue and White party, who entered politics just a year ago with the sole mission of unseating Netanyahu in the name of democracy and the rule of law, betrayed his million or so voters last month when he chose to enter negotiations with Netanyahu to form a national unity government, where the two rotate as prime ministers (Netanyahu goes first).

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gantz signed the agreement in the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem on Monday night, as Israel remained in near-total lockdown.

The agreement, following weeks of tense negotiations and brinksmanship, comes as Israel confronts a burgeoning coronavirus outbreak.

A woman takes part in a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen on the poster, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, April 19, 2020.

When Gantz was first tasked with building a coalition after the election, he could have formed a minority government (a government without an absolute majority) with the outside support of the Joint List.

The glue holding together Gantz's different backers was their shared animosity toward Netanyahu. Netanyahu wanted a guarantee he would not be forced to resign after Gantz takes over as prime minister.

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His decision led to the break-up of his centrist Blue and White alliance.

Additionally, the agreement said a deputy prime minister will be allowed to remain in office under indictment, Haaretz reported.

After the most recent election, Gantz saw his Blue and White alliance unravel as the Yesh Atid and Telem factions broke off over his election as Knesset speaker, with the backing of Netanyahu's right-wing religious bloc, a move created to open coalition talks with Likud.

Netanyahu faces three cases of corruption, with fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges. He has denied any wrongdoing and portrays himself as a victim of a media and judicial witch hunt.

Hundreds of demonstrators, many of them carrying black flags and signs accusing Netanyahu of corruption, stood in spaced rows on Habimah Square and for the most part observed a distance of two yards between one another due to safety measures connected with the coronavirus.

The country boasts low coronavirus figures, having just over 13,000 confirmed cases including some 160 deaths. While this week the country began relaxing some of its health restrictions, hundreds of thousands are out of work and the economy has come to a standstill.

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