by Keren Setton
JERUSALEM, April 21 (Xinhua) -- After three consecutive elections in more than a year, a unity government is expected to be formed in the coming days in Israel with two main political rivals' announcement of a power-sharing agreement.
After weeks of negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister and leader of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu and leader of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz reached a compromise, ending a long period of political paralysis for the country. The threat of a fourth election has been removed, for now.
"I promised the state of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu tweeted, after the announcement. Israel, which is battling to curb the spread of the coronavirus in recent weeks, has been under a care-taker government for over a year, making policy and budget decisions difficult.
More than 180 Israelis have died of the virus so far, with almost 14,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19.
The government will be defined as an emergency for the first six months in light of the virus in the country. The agreement stipulates a three-year period in which the government will rule. According to the deal, it will be Israel's largest cabinet ever with between 34 to 36 ministers.
For Netanyahu, Israel's longest serving prime minister, the deal is a victory. Busy fighting off corruption charges, he is expected to make his first court appearance in the coming weeks.
In the agreement, the Likud, gets veto power on the appointments of the attorney general and the state attorney, people who have a major influence on Netanyahu's future. The Likud also gets a say on judicial appointments.
Also, if the Supreme Court rules Netanyahu cannot lead, the agreement ensures an automatic new election and not the formation of a government.
Under the power-sharing deal, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for 18 months before being replaced by Gantz, who will serve as prime minister for another 18 months, as part of a rotation deal that will be bound in law.
"Netanyahu achieved most of his goals," said Eytan Gilboa, an expert on government and politics at the Bar Ilan University, "He wanted to dismantle the opposition and he secured several advantages for himself."
"Gantz has no political experience and demonstrated that he does not have any experience in negotiations," Gilboa told Xinhua.
"Gantz had more to lose, and he was facing a growing gap with his supporters," said Dr. Yonatan Freeman, from the Political Science Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"They both failed to form a government three times," Freeman said. "Public opinion wanted unity and not an election. A fourth election will see much greater disunity."
"There is a good chance Netanyahu will not give up. If he decides to break up the government, he would find and a good excuse to do that because he is a superb manipulator, a political magician and the other side is no match for him," Gilboa added.
"Gantz and Netanyahu see eye-to-eye on almost all policies, Israel under Gantz will not change its course," said Freeman.
Gantz was Israel's military chief under Netanyahu and the two are accustomed to working together.
Palestinian officials immediately condemned the part of the coalition agreement that calls for promotion of annexation.
It seems that for now, Netanyahu has secured his position for another 18 months. If he overcomes the supreme court hurdle, he will be able to conduct his trial from the cushy position of Israel's prime minister.