Israel has bloated “unity government”

► What is the composition of the new government?

“The people want a unity government and that is what they will have today”. After 500 days of crisis, three parliamentary elections with no majority and several postponements this week, Benyamin Netanyahu knew how impatient his fellow citizens were. Sunday, May 17 afternoon, he went to the Knesset to present the composition of his new government. Unsurprisingly, the deputies trusted him, by 73 votes for, twelve more than the majority threshold.

The result of a compromise between two former rivals – Benyamin Netanyahu (Likoud, right) and Benny Gantz (Blue White, center) – the new Israeli cabinet is not without its paradoxes. The team announced is temporary: for the first 18 months, Benjamin Netanyahu will remain Prime Minister and Benny Gantz will be his Minister of Defense, then the latter will succeed him.

This team is also heterogeneous: the range of parties represented within it goes from Labor to the far-right Jewish Home party, including the religious parties Shass or Unified Judaism of the Torah. The signed agreement provided for a fair sharing of ministries, allowing everyone to redistribute posts to their political allies.

The team is finally overwhelming: 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers. “The government formed today is the biggest mess in the country’s history. You call it emergency government? We have more ministers and deputy ministers than Covid patients on artificial respirators ”joked former finance minister Yair Lapid, who refused to follow Benny Gantz on this adventure. The Israeli press is concerned about the enormous cost of such a government as the country faces a severe economic crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

► In what context is this government taking office?

“The people spoke, and left us, we, responsible, before this choice: unity or civil war. He said to us: stop fighting among yourselves, and get to work for us ”, summarized Benny Gantz, for whom the main challenge is to lead “The medical battle” while limiting its “Economic and social repercussions, both in Israel and around the world”.

→ READ. In Israel, plans to annex part of the West Bank are advancing

This government has indeed been promised to defend Israel against the Covid-19 pandemic, which officially infected more than 16,500 people, of whom 268 have died. But how can we get back on track an economy that has seen its unemployment rate jump from 3% to 27% while avoiding a second wave of contamination? “We need to vote a budget, and it’s no secret that it will involve difficult and painful decisions”, Benny Gantz announced again.

► What projects await the new team?

Despite the immense difficulties already before him, Benyamin Netanyahu did not hesitate to set fire to the powder by mentioning, once again, the forthcoming annexation of part of the West Bank, the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967. “It’s time to write a glorious new chapter in the history of Zionism”, he said, triggering protests by Israeli Arab parliamentarians. “Peace can only be based on truth, and we all know it. The truth, as we all know, is that the hundreds of thousands of residents of Judea and Samaria (Editor’s note: the West Bank) will always stay at home, regardless of the peace agreement ultimately found. This gesture will not take us away from peace, it will bring us closer to it ”.

Benny Gantz, who is said to be more circumspect about the project, remained silent. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, is to unveil on Monday May 18 a “Draft text” discussed on Friday by foreign ministers in which the European Union “Warns of an annexation which would be a violation of international law”.

The Israeli government must present, from July 1, its strategy on this issue. In the meantime, a new soap opera is announced: the opening of the trial of Benjamin Netanyahu, scheduled for Sunday, May 24.

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