Israel’s long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to remain Prime Minister for at least a little while. Meanwhile, his main opposition, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party, will likely take his turn as Prime Minister in the near future in a unity government. To get there, he essentially blew up his party and got in bed with his enemy.
According to Jerusalem Post, Gantz did a reversal against members of his own team in order to secure a unity government that will allow him to split time with Netanyahu.
In a dramatic turn of events, the Blue and White Party, which served as the alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2 election, broke up on Thursday after party head Benny Gantz decided to enter Netanyahu’s government.
The three parties that made up Blue and White – Gantz‘s Israel Resilience, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem – all went in different directions. Israel Resilience is joining the government, Lapid will head the opposition and Telem will split up, with Ya’alon on the outside and divided.
Yesh Atid and Telem formally asked the Knesset to split off from Israel Resilience and keep the name Blue and White for the two parties together. Yesh Atid MKs wished their former colleagues good luck as they left the party’s WhatsApp group.
The Israeli Knesset system requires a majority of MKs—61 or more—to back a Prime Minister in order for the government to form. Those supporting the Prime Minister then negotiate for roles within the government based on the size of their party or coalition. But Gantz, who has been given the first mandate to form the government by President Rivlin, has chosen to make a deal with Likud, Netanyahu, and their conservative bloc instead of fighting to get to 61 with their center-left coalition.
This move will not only allow Netanyahu to likely remain Prime Minister, but also blocks attempts to impose term limits on the Prime Minister’s office as well as proposed legislation that would not allow anyone charged with a crime to be Prime Minister until exonerated. It protects Netanyahu’s seat and sets the stage for Gantz to take over, likely in 12-18 months.
Some, including Gantz and Netanyahu, claim this deal is necessary based on it being the third election in less than a year and the growing threat of the coronavirus. But opponents still feel it is a betrayal as Gantz was the de facto leader of direct opposition to Netanyahu’s office. By solidifying his ongoing, albeit temporary, stay as Prime Minister, it’s a betrayal that will not be forgotten.
The turmoil in Israel has many feeling hurt by the events that are no unfolding, but considering the status of the coronavirus and the lasting division in Israeli politics, this may be the only move that makes sense for Israel, the United States, and the Middle East.