Israel’s rival leaders broke the country’s unprecedented political impasse Monday evening, April 20, when far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former challenger MK Benny Gantz announced that they had signed a deal to join forces and form a unity government. The new ruling coalition will be characterized by neoliberal economic policies and the advancement and strengthening of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. In the agreement there is absolutely nothing about the deep social, economic and health crisis spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the terms of the agreement, Netanyahu will remain prime minister for the next 18 months with Gantz then succeeding him. The deal represents a triumph for Netanyahu, who has pushed relentlessly to extend his record run at the top of Israeli politics. The Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has once again outrun the political obituaries written for him after his party and its allies failed to regain their majority in three straight national elections while, along the way, he has been indicted on three counts of corruption.
In addition, Netanyahu has prevailed on the issue of Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank, as endorsed by the Trump administration’s “peace plan.” According to clause 29 of the deal between Gantz and Netanyahu the latter “will be able to bring the agreement reached with the US on the application of sovereignty [in the West Bank]… for the approval of the cabinet and/or the Knesset starting July 1, 2020.” Gantz and Netanyahu will advance Trump’s imperialist plan, “while pursuing security and strategic interests,” the agreement further reads.
Knesset Members from the Joint List strongly condemned the agreement. “Gantz has now demonstrated that he is a clone of Netanyahu,” said Hadash MK Youssef Jabareen (Hadash). According to Jabareen, it’s clear that Netanyahu remains in control of the unity government and guides its vision: “It will deepen Israel’s military rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories and likely begin the process of annexing Israel’s illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land,” the Hadash lawmaker predicted.
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh slammed the far-right unity government deal as an outrage for the majority of Israeli citizens. “Gantz and Netanyahu’s government of surrender is a slap in the face of the civilian majority that went to the polls time and time again to oust Netanyahu,” said the head of Hadash. “Gantz was not courageous enough to triumph but chose instead to legitimize annexation, racism and corruption,” said Odeh.
According to Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman, “The next Israeli government will be a dangerous right wing one. Gantz entered the field hoping to replace Netanyahu and ended up strengthening the latter’s racist and anti-democratic politics. We will lead the opposition to this annexation government – during and after the Corona crisis.”
The Communist Party of Israel said in a statement that the “formation of the new far-right annexation government means an end to the two-state solution and the dismantling of the rights of the Palestinian people as established under international law and resolutions, and more neoliberal economic and social capitalist policies. We will continue to struggle against the Netanyahu-Gantz government in the streets and in the Knesset.”