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Sunday, September 20, 2020

With Supreme Court Ruling, Israel Ready to Form New Government

The unity behemoth is coming. A coalition of more than 70 Knesset members (perhaps close to 80), and a government of more than 30 ministers, not to mention a dozen or so deputy ministers, is expected to be sworn in next Wednesday — the first since 2015. After three election cycles, it’s about time we had a new government.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday night that letting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu form a new government is legal. Eleven justices signed the ruling, signaling that this was not a controversial conclusion. Not by a long shot. It also decided the court had no reason to intervene in the agreement between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. For now. The court could still revisit the legal arrangements later. For example, when it becomes Netanyahu’s turn to be the “alternate prime minister.” At such time, if the justices rule that the alternate prime minister is like any other minister, Gantz  will be forced to dismiss Netanyahu (under the current law, a minister cannot serve under indictment). The result will be an end to the coalition.

But this is far in the future. For now, the court has paved the way for the Knesset to pass the necessary legislation, for the president to hand Netanyahu the mandate to form a government, and for the heads of the blocs to begin closing the deal with the other parties and select the ministers for each office. All of this is slated to happen by next Wednesday, when the Knesset will vote in favor of the unity government.

Four important things to note as the government forms:

  1. There was a lot of skepticism among analysts, pundits and other observers as to whether Netanyahu truly wants to form a unity government or was looking for a way to prompt a new election. Such skepticism was not misplaced but has its limitations. Prophecy is dangerous,  especially when the prophet has a clear agenda (in this case, to make Netanyahu look bad).
  2. For 18 months we became used to (or maybe became addicted to) the game of politics. Political maneuvers are an important part of public life, but the new government faces serious challenges. Hopefully, this will be reason enough to take a break from political games and focus on policy making.
  3. Netanyahu’s trial is slated to begin in a few weeks. We have to see how he functions when the court discusses the allegations against him.
  4. Is the government ready to annex parts of the West Bank? Apart from coronavirus related matters, including health measures and economic remedies, annexation is the next big question on the table. According to his understanding with Gantz, in two months Netanyahu can make a move. Two months is an eternity. And it is also just around the corner.

More on recent developments in Israel:

A Conversation with Political Correspondent Tal Schneider
Can Netanyahu Legally Be Prime Minister?
Should Israel’s Court Accept a Flawed Coalition Agreement?
Is Israel Returning to Normalcy Too Soon?

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