Netanyahu, Rival Gantz Clinch Israel Power–Sharing Deal

April 21, 2020 Updated: April 21, 2020

JERUSALEM—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his election rival Benny Gantz signed a deal on April 20 to form a national emergency government, ending a year of political deadlock.

The power-sharing agreement was clinched after weeks of negotiations.

Netanyahu, who is under criminal indictment in three corruption cases, will remain prime minister for 18 months, after which Gantz will replace him, according to the agreement signed by both men.

Netanyahu’s trial on charges that include bribery, fraud, and breach of trust is due to begin May 24. He denies any wrongdoing.

Over the past year, Netanyahu, who has been in power for more than a decade, has presided over a caretaker government following three inconclusive elections in April and September 2019 and on March 2, just as the country began grappling with the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

“We have prevented a fourth election. We will protect democracy. We will fight coronavirus and care for all Israel’s citizens,” Gantz said on Twitter after signing the deal. Netanyahu tweeted the Israeli flag.

Until he takes over as premier, Gantz, a former armed forces chief, will serve as defense minister, with his political allies receiving the same number of ministerial portfolios as Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The new Israeli government’s first priority would be managing the CCP virus crisis.

Israel, with a population of about 9 million, has so far confirmed more than 13,500 COVID-19 cases and 177 deaths. Restrictions to curb CCP virus transmission have sent unemployment above 26 percent.

On the campaign trail, Gantz pledged not to serve in a government led by a prime minister facing criminal charges, but backtracked last month, saying the enormity of the CCP virus crisis necessitated an emergency unity government.

The decision to join forces with Netanyahu enraged many of Gantz’s political allies who split from the party and will be part of the opposition in Israel’s 120-member parliament.

The Epoch Times contributed to this report.