(Jerusalem, Israel) — The coronavirus pandemic appears to be accomplishing something that three elections couldn’t. It’s forcing Israel’s long-deadlocked party leaders to put the well-being of the nation ahead of their own political fortunes.
More than 2,500 Israelis now have the virus. Eight have died. Decisive action is needed to save lives and our economy.
Like most Israelis, I’ve been calling for months for a unity government. It now appears to be at hand. But it’s a bombshell story — almost entirely unexpected by most Israelis — and events are fast-moving and updating almost minute by minute.
Here’s what we now so far:
- Netanyahu and Gantz are creating an emergency unity government, in a deal apparently brokered by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
- Gantz was just elected as Speaker of the Knesset, winning 74 votes in favor, 18 were opposed, and the rest abstained.
- But this is only temporary — once the full agreement is finalized and signed, Gantz will become Foreign Minister for 18 months.
- Netanyahu will serve as Prime Minister for 18 more months.
- Then, Gantz will become the Prime Minister.
- It’s not clear at this hour what happens to Netanyahu at that point.
- Upset with this move, two of Gantz’s key allies — Yair Lapid and Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon — have rejected the Gantz move.
- The Blue & White Party is now breaking up.
- Gantz’s team are expected to get the major Cabinet portfolios, including the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, Justice Ministry and the Economic Ministry.
- These are enormous concessions by Netanyahu and the Likud.
- In his first speech after being elected Knesset speaker, Benny Gantz says “democracy has won,” the Times of Israel reported. Gantz says he was chosen “to unify the people and not divide.” Gantz added: “I promise to all Israelis to do the right thing at this time. The Knesset will work for the people and citizens — all of them.”
- Not clear yet: what happens when Netanyahu goes on trial.