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. He goes on trial on May 24 on charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud, which he denies.
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.