After three inconclusive elections and a year-and-a-half of political paralysis, Israel’s new government is set to be sworn in on Thursday.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history – and a man who faces a trial on corruption charges this month – will share the premiership on a rotational basis with centrist rival Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu, of the centre-right Likud party, will be the first to head the new government for a period of 18 months.
Then former military chief Gantz, of the Blue and White Alliance, is supposed to take the reins in October 2021.
While Netanyahu is premier, Gantz is to serve as deputy head of government and defence minister.
After vowing to never enter into a coalition with Netanyahu, Gantz said he abandoned his pledge because Israel needed a stable government to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
In what is being called a “national emergency government,” the first six months is meant to focus on the outbreak and its economic fallout.
There is one major exception: The extension of Israeli sovereignty over its West Bank settlements under U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial Middle East peace plan, announced in January.
According to clause 29 of the Likud-Blue and White deal, as early as July 1, Netanyahu may ask his cabinet or the Knesset to vote on annexing West Bank land with settlements.
Israel saw an unprecedented three elections in a year, the last on March 2, with Netanyahu fighting for his political survival as post-election talks faltered and criminal proceedings against him pressed ahead.
He was officially indicted on bribery, fraud and breach of trust in January.
The trial is set to begin on May 24.
Netanyahu is accused of offering political favours in return for positive press coverage and helping wealthy business contacts in return for gifts.