After 18 months of political crisis, Israel acquires a government

Prime Minister Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset on May 17, 2020. Amos Ben Gershon / Knesset Spokesperson's Office via Reuters

Text by: Guilhem Delteil Follow

On December 24, 2018, the ruling coalition in Israel decided to dissolve the parliament and call for early elections. Since then, three successive legislative ballots have failed to find a winner. Finally, this Sunday, May 17, Israel has a new executive, the result of a power-sharing agreement between the two main rivals of the last three campaigns: Benyamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.


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From our correspondent in Jerusalem,

The ceremony has been postponed several times: initially scheduled for last Wednesday, it was postponed overnight due to the visit to Israel by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo . But discontent within Likud, the party of Benjamin Netanyahu, pushed the outgoing Prime Minister, and ultimately renewed, to ask his main coalition partner, Benny Gantz, for a new deadline.

Finally, this Sunday, May 17, five days before a legal ax that would have dragged the country into a fourth campaign, the new government was sworn in. Neither Benyamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli history, nor his main rival and former chief of staff, Benny Gantz, has failed to achieve a clear majority in the past three polls, Israel now has a government of national unity .

Mutual distrust

The rapprochement between the two rivals took place in favor of the health and economic crisis caused by the new coronavirus. From the first line, the coalition agreement evokes a "  historic crisis  " and mentions "  the social, medical and economic consequences  " of the spread of the coronavirus. Le Likoud and Bleu-Blanc thus believe that "  the good of Israel requires the immediate establishment of a national emergency government  ". 

In this government of national unity, the two former rivals should alternate at the head of the government: Benjamin Netanyahu first, Benny Gantz, in principle, in 18 months. In his speech to the Knesset this Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu announced the date of this alternation: it should take place on November 17, 2021. But the complexity of the agreement between the two men is revealing: "  There is no confidence between the two camps. This is probably the main characteristic of this political agreement  , "underlines Yohanan Plezner, former centrist deputy and president of the Israeli Institute for Democracy. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the Knesset vote approving his government with Benny Gantz on May 17, 2020. Adina Valman / Knesset Spokesperson's Office via Reuters

In 1984, the Labor Party of Shimon Peres and the Likud of Yitzhak Shamir also agreed to a division of power and an alternation to the post of Prime Minister. But the basic laws had not been changed. “  The agreement was based on a minimum of confidence. This is not the case today  ”, judge Yohanan Plezner. For the political scientist, “  a new regime has been created: we have two Prime Ministers. Both have veto power over government decisions, appointments, and laws. Although Benny Gantz is only expected to become Prime Minister in 18 months, he already has, in many ways, almost 50% of the authority that a Prime Minister enjoys.  "

Ministerial inflation

In the government, two people have the title of Prime Minister: Benyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister in office, and Benny Gantz, "  Alternating Prime Minister  ". Each side was to have the same number of ministers, creating an inflation of portfolios. Finally, the strict parity between the two blocs is not respected, but with 34 ministers and 16 deputy ministers, this government is the largest in the history of Israel. 

The size of the government, and the powers of the ministers, made him attack even before he took office. The community development ministry is interviewing many Israelis. What will this minister's job be? Noting that there is also a Ministry of Social Equality and a Ministry of Social Affairs, Anshel Pfeffer, political journalist with the daily Haaretz , ensures that "  to ensure that all these ministries do not go to war, there is also a special ministerial cabinet of reconciliation  ”which has been created. 

Prime Minister alternate Benny Gantz after Knesset vote approving his government with ex-rival Benyamin Netanyahu on May 17, 2020. Adina Valman / Knesset Spokesperson's Office via Reuters

End of the crisis?

You forgot to appoint a minister to coordinate the government with reality,  " quipped Limor Livnat, a former Likud minister. On social networks, Internet users have fun giving themselves titles of ministers, with eccentric attributions. And a satirical program broadcast on the public channel Kan this weekend made fun of this government: the presenter claimed to receive two ministers whose attributions were specified by gestures. The first was the Minister of the Finger when the responsibilities of the second were at the crotch. 

We would both have liked to form a different government  ", admitted, this Sunday, Benny Gantz while addressing Benyamin Netanyahu. But for the former chief of staff, this union is a choice of reason which makes it possible “  to put an end to the most serious political crisis  ” in the history of Israel. We can declare an end to the most acute phase of the political crisis, but this is not the end of the political crisis  ," moderates Yohanan Plezner. Because the very existence of the government depends on new judicial decisions. The judges of the Supreme Court have not yet decided on certain questions, in particular the law which allows the appointment of two Prime Ministers  ", notes Yohanan Plezner.

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  • Israel
  • Benyamin netanyahu
  • Benny Gantz

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