Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented his new unity government to parliament on Sunday, ending more than a year of political deadlock as he prepares to go on trial in a week for alleged corruption.
His power-sharing agreement with former election rival, centrist Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, opens the way for the right-wing Netanyahu to proceed towards a pledged de facto annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, land Palestinians seek for a state.
Under his accord with Gantz, after three inconclusive elections, Netanyahu will remain prime minister for 18 months before handing over to his new partner. Gantz, a former armed forces chief, will be Netanyahu’s defence minister.
“The people wanted unity, and that is what it got,” Netanyahu told parliament, citing a desire to avoid a fourth election after three inconclusive ballots since April 2019, and a national battle against the coronavirus crisis.
Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu, now 70, first came to power in 1996 and has served three consecutive terms since 2009.
With a record 36 ministers, the cabinet will be the largest in Israel’s history, a reflection of weeks of deal-making that bolstered Netanyahu’s reputation as a political survivor.