Israel's Netanyahu, Gantz agree to form 'emergency' government


"This is another government of Netanyahu and his Haredi-messianic bloc with a fig leaf of two senior [generals]", he wrote on Facebook, referring to Gantz and Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi, who will serve as defense minister and foreign minister in Netanyahu's cabinet, respectively. The coronavirus crisis had prompted calls by Netanyahu and others for an emergency government that would end the political fight and leave him in office.

Gantz stressed that the deal had prevented "a fourth election". "We'll safeguard democracy", Gantz tweeted shortly after the deal was announced.

"Israel needs a national emergency government".

Mr Netanayhu, the leader of the right-wing Likud party, posted a picture of the Israeli flag on Twitter in the moments that followed the announcement.

"I promised the state of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel", Netanyahu tweeted. "We will battle corona and we will worry about all the citizens of Israel".

On Sunday night, several thousand demonstrators, including Gantz's former political partner Yair Lapid, gathered in Tel Aviv to protest the expected government deal. Under Israeli law, public officials, with the exception of the prime minister, must resign if charged with a crime.

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While the government was ostensibly formed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 170 Israelis and ravaged the economy, negotiations revolved largely around Netanyahu's corruption trial, set to start next month.

Members of Gantz's own alliance said he had betrayed them and blasted that move, saying it wasn't a unity government, but rather another Netanyahu government.

Beginning July 1, Netanyahu will be allowed to present any agreement reached with the US regarding annexing parts of the West Bank, to the Cabinet and then to parliament for a vote.

Despite no longer having a mandate, Gantz said on Friday that he is doing "everything in his power" to form a unity government and that if a deal is not reached, it would be Netanyahu's responsibility.

Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted in January for alleged involvement in bribery and fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases of alleged corruption. He was also prime minister for a term in the 1990s. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Details of the arrangement were still emerging, but the two sides have agreed to divvy up dozens of ministries and to rotate the prime minister's job, allowing the embattled Netanyahu to stay in power at least for now.