The Netanyahu-Gantz Government and the future of the West Bank

Giovanni Sale, SJ

 Giovanni Sale, SJ / Full Text Article / 10 August 2020

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A new government for Israel

After 508 days of political stalemate, on May 17, 2020, the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, voted in a new government of national unity, with 73 votes in favor and 46 against. It is Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s fifth premiership.[1] This time, however, he will have to share the office of prime minister with former rival Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party, who will take the leadership of the government on November 17, 2021. In fact, he also took the oath of office on May 17 as “alternate prime minister” and Minister of Defense.

The new executive is supported by the so-called “right-wing bloc,” a coalition of eight parties, several of which are small. It is the largest government in the history of the country, with as many as 34 ministers and 16 deputy ministers. In this regard, during the inaugural debate, a leading member of the opposition, Yair Lapid (who was initially an ally of Gantz), noted: “There are more ministers and deputy ministers in the government than people hospitalized for the coronavirus.”[2] At that time there were a total of 50 members of the new executive, while those in hospital with Covid-19 were 48.

Defined as a “national emergency government,” it was created, according to Gantz, to deal with the coronavirus and to remedy the serious economic crisis and unemployment caused by the pandemic. In reality, Netanyahu’s project went far beyond that perspective: its aim was to annex, with the support of Trump, part of the occupied territories of the West Bank (where there are important Israeli settlements) and the Jordan Valley, thus redefining the borders of the Israeli State.

The agreement between Netanyahu and Gantz for the formation of a coalition government was reached on April 20, 2020, although the Blue and White Party, in the various general elections – April and September 2019 and March 2, 2020 – campaigned with the slogan “Anyone but Netanyahu.”[3] In fact, the prime minister had been called to account by the judicial authorities.[4] The agreement provided that each leader (starting with Netanyahu) would assume the office of prime minister for 18 months, and then, after 36 months of government, they would vote again, for the fourth time in a short period.

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