Netanyahu set to head ‘unity government’ after coalition talks near end
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Netanyahu set to head ‘unity government’ after coalition talks near end

Embattled prime minister looks set to agree terms to continue in power after rollercoaster week in Israeli politics

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi-JINIPIX
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi-JINIPIX

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks set to head a new ‘unity government’ after coalition talks between his Likud party and the opposition Blue and White neared a conclusion.

Israel’s biggest two parties want to agree terms by Monday despite talks being delayed through Netanyahu’s self-isolation but a potential sticking point is who runs the Justice Ministry, given the prime minister’s pending corruption trial.

It follows a rollercoaster week in Israeli politics which included Speaker Yuli Edelstein closing parliament then resigning after the Supreme Court ruled that he was trying to stymie democratic processes. Edelstein in a Netanyahu ally and did not want the Opposition to replace him with one of their own.

Days later, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz was elected Speaker. He and party colleague Gabi Ashkenazi then agreed to enter a coalition with Netanyahu, but the decision split Blue and White, leaving Gantz’s co-leader Yair Lapid to walk away with his Yesh Atid contingent and ex-IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon.

Gantz’s remaining Blue and White parliamentarians are now negotiating with Likud, which wants Edelstein to return as Speaker. Gantz is expected to become defence minister but may have to give up the foreign ministry if he wants Edelstein gone.

Netanyahu’s trial is now due to start in May, postponed from March as a result of the judiciary’s restrictions owning to the novel coronavirus, although it is likely to be pushed further back, as numbers of infections continued to rise.

He wants to apply Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements as soon as possible, but Gantz wants to focus on managing the pandemic, postponing other issues to later.

Meanwhile Syrian air defences intercepted an Israeli missile attack over the western province of Homs on Tuesday night. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli Air Force “launched an attack on Shayrat airfield with more than eight missiles”.

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