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Israel: Lawmakers approve Netanyahu-Gantz unity government

The Israeli Parliament has passed a bill clearing the way for Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to form a government. The office of prime minister will reportedly rotate between the two rivals.

After three elections and a stalemate that lasted over a year, the Israeli parliament on Thursday voted for a new government that would see caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keep his seat.

However, the lawmakers also voted in constitutional changes that would require Netanyahu to share power with his rival Benny Gantz, with the office of prime minister set to rotate between the two.

A coalition agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White alliance foresees Netanyahu giving the prime minister’s office to Ganz after 18 months, in October 2021.

Both men are set to be sworn in at the same ceremony on Wednesday.

Green light for Netanyahu

Parliament’s decision comes a day after Israel’s Supreme Court allowed Netanyahu to stay in power while still under indictment. The 11-judge panel did not find “any legal reason to prevent Netanyahu from forming a government.”

Netanyahu faces charges for corruption, fraud, and breach of trust with the trial expected to begin later this month.

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The caretaker prime minister has denied any sort of wrongdoing.

Under Israeli laws, he would only be required to step down after a final sentence. 

Political odyssey

Netanyahu has ruled Israel since 2009, but failed to form a majority after a snap election in April last year. Two more elections left both Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White party without the necessary majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Gantz had repeatedly rejected the possibility of a coalition with Netanyahu but changed his mind following the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision sparked outrage in some segments of his party and prompted two of his key allies to accuse him of surrendering to his long-time rival.

Parliament is expected to vote later on Thursday to ask President Reuven Rivlin to grant Netanyahu a government-forming mandate.

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