Netanyahu, Gantz agree to form Israeli unity government
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival, parliament speaker Benny Gantz, agreed to form an emergency unity government on Monday, ending the worst political crisis in the country's history.
"An agreement for the establishment of a national emergency government is now being signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White (alliance) chairman... Benny Gantz," a joint statement said.
Following a March 2 election, Israel's third stalemate vote in less than a year, Gantz was given a four-week mandate to form a stable governing coalition.
After he was elected speaker late last month, the ex-military chief pledged to forge an emergency unity government with Netanyahu who has been in office since 2009.
Gantz conceded that Netanyahu would lead that government as prime minister, at least to begin with, as Israel confronts the coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday night, thousands of Israelis demonstrated against what they called a threat to democracy arising from Netanyahu’s continued rule.
The protesters observed social distancing while protesting.
After assuring President Reuven Rivlin that they were close to agreement, Gantz and Netanyahu were given until the end of Wednesday to reach a deal.
Meanwhile, Rivlin officially informed Gantz that his mandate to form a government had expired.
The president noted that neither Gantz nor Netanyahu currently has the backing of a majority of lawmakers in Israel's deeply divided 120-member parliament.
But as the country grapples with the coronavirus, Rivlin implored lawmakers to find a solution that enables Israel to avoid a fourth election.
A Netanyahu-Gantz deal would have given Israel its first stable government since December 2018 and a more representative leadership to guide it through the tough decisions that still have to be taken about the coronavirus shutdown and its devastating economic toll.