Thirty-fifth government of Israel

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Netanyahu–Gantz government
Flag of Israel.svg
35th Cabinet of Israel
The tripartite meeting between Rivlin Netanyahu and Gantz, September 2019 (Haim Zach GPO 1).jpg
Date formedMay 17, 2020 (2020-05-17)
Date dissolvedJune 13, 2021 (2021-06-13)
People and organisations
PresidentReuven Rivlin
Prime ministerBenjamin Netanyahu
Alternate prime ministerBenny Gantz
No. of ministers28
Member parties
Status in legislature
Opposition parties
Opposition leaderYair Lapid
History
Election(s)2020 Knesset election
Legislature term(s)23rd Knesset
Predecessor34th government
Successor36th government

The thirty-fifth government of Israel (Hebrew: מֶמְשֶׁלֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל הַשְׁלוֹשִׁים וְחָמֵשׁ‎, romanizedMem'shelet Yisra'el HaShloshim VeHamesh), or the Netanyahu–Gantz government, was the government of Israel which was sworn in on 17 May 2020 and dissolved on 13 June 2021.

It was originally expected to be established following the April 2019 election, but after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government, the Knesset dissolved itself, thereby setting up a snap election that took place on 17 September 2019.[1] Following the second election, no one was able to form a government again, and a third election had to take place on 2 March 2020.[2] An agreement was finally reached on 20 April 2020, between Netanyahu and MK Benny Gantz on the formation of a national unity government. The Knesset, and with it the current government's legislative operations, was again dissolved on 23 December 2020, resulting in the 2021 election.[3][4] On 13 June 2021, in a 60–59 vote with 1 abstention, the Knesset voted to approve the thirty-sixth government of Israel led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, ending Netanyahu's 12-year second tenure as prime minister and sending Likud into opposition.[5]

Background[edit]

First election – April 2019[edit]

After the April 2019 Israeli legislative election, the Blue and White faction leader Benny Gantz conceded, paving the way for incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Likud, to begin talks with other parties to form a governing coalition.[6]

Israeli government formation, April–May 2019

← 2015 15 April – 30 May 2019 September 2019 →
  Netanyahu official portrait.jpg Benny Gantz 2019 (cropped).jpg
Nominee Benjamin Netanyahu Benny Gantz
Party Likud Blue and White
Electoral vote 65 45

Prime minister before election

Benjamin Netanyahu
Likud

Outcome of formation

No government formed and fresh elections called. Netanyahu remains prime minister ad interim

On 15 and 16 April, leaders of all the parties who won seats in the Knesset met with President Reuven Rivlin to recommend a designated person to form a government. Netanyahu received recommendations from leaders representing 65 seats in the Knesset, whereas Gantz received recommendations from leaders representing only 45 seats in the Knesset. Leaders of the two Arab parties, representing 10 seats in the Knesset, declined to make any recommendation.[7]

Recommendations[edit]

Party Party Leader Seats Recommended Source
Likud Benjamin Netanyahu 35 Netanyahu [8]
Blue & White Benny Gantz 35 Gantz [8]
Shas Aryeh Deri 8 Netanyahu [8]
UTJ Yaakov Litzman 8 Netanyahu [8]
HadashTa'al Ayman Odeh 6 No-one [8]
Labor Avi Gabbay 6 Gantz [9]
Yisrael Beiteinu Avigdor Lieberman 5 Netanyahu [9]
Union of Right-Wing Parties Rafi Peretz 5 Netanyahu [9]
Meretz Tamar Zandberg 4 Gantz [9]
Kulanu Moshe Kahlon 4 Netanyahu [9]
Ra'amBalad Mansour Abbas 4 No-one [10]
Israeli government formation, September 2019

← April–May 2019 22 September 2019 March–April 2020 →
  Netanyahu official portrait.jpg Benny Gantz 2019 (cropped).jpg
Nominee Benjamin Netanyahu Benny Gantz
Party Likud Blue and White
Electoral vote 55 54

Prime minister before election

Benjamin Netanyahu
Likud

Outcome of formation

No government formed and fresh elections called. Netanyahu remains prime minister ad interim

Second election – September 2019[edit]

A second election was held in September 2019. This time, Blue and White overcame the Likud by a single seat.

On election night, Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu called for a "broad liberal government" that includes both Blue and White and Likud, and reiterated that he did not want to form any majority with the Arab parties. Benny Gantz claimed Prime ministership and Blue and White repeated that they would not form a government with Netanyahu, although they were open to one with Likud. Benyamin Netanyahu called for a "strong Zionist government".[11] On the left, Labor-Gesher stated it wanted to bring Arab parties "to the table", some of which are open to recommending Gantz.[11]

On 18 September, Netanyahu met with the emissaries of Yamina, Shas, and UTJ, to build a right-wing bloc to negotiate together.[12]

On 19 September, Rivlin, Netanyahu and Gantz met during a memorial ceremony for Shimon Peres. Netanyahu urged Gantz to speak with him about forming a unity government, for the sake of avoiding a third election.[11] Speaking for Blue and White, Gantz and Lapid both rejected Netanyahu's offer, saying Blue and White had won, and that Gantz had the right to lead a unity government committed to liberal policies on social issues, and thus refusing to discuss forming such a government with Netanyahu as long as right-wing religious parties were included. Lapid remarked that "if Netanyahu steps aside, we'll have a unity government".[13][14] Lieberman likewise accused Netanyahu of "deception" by offering a unity government, but conditioning it on the inclusion of religious parties.[15]

The same day, Gantz met with Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the Democratic Union. His aides said they expect a meeting with other party leaders, Odeh and Peretz. Labor-Gesher's six MKs could allow Netanyahu's bloc of 55 to find a majority. Likud thus reportedly offered Peretz the Finance portfolio, and a raise of the minimum wage, but the same sources say Peretz turned down the offer, which goes against a campaign vow. Netanyahu met with Degel HaTorah MKs, who, along with other Haredi parties (Shas, Agudat Yisrael), are starting to backtrack on their refusal not to govern with Lapid, in the case Lapid himself U-turns on Netanyahu. Lieberman was equivocal as to whether he would support Gantz, fearing to be sidelined from a unity government, or one that includes Haredim. According to Channel 13, Gantz reportedly promised to include Yisrael Beiteinu in any coalition.[16]

Joint list and balad[edit]

On 21 September, the 13 MKs from the Joint List met together. 10 of them—with three Balad MKs dissenting—expressed their readiness to nominate Gantz if he meets "basic demands" on the peace process, the Arab community's interests, and the Jewish nation-state law.[17] President Rivlin met with party leaders on 22 September for the first day of talks.[18] On 22 September 2019, the Joint List leader Ayman Odeh declared that the Joint List had agreed, by internal majority voting, to endorse Benny Gantz for prime minister.[19][20] Though initial reports suggested that the Joint List's recommendation gave Gantz a 57 to 55 edge, Rivlin revealed on 23 September that three Balad MKs—elected as part of the Joint List—demanded that their names be removed from a list of nominees of Gantz. After a day of confusion, Tibi and Odeh—leaders of the Joint List—wrote a letter to Rivlin clarifying that the Joint List did not, in fact, have a unity agreement that legally binds individual parties to follow the party's nomination for the prime minister.[21] As such, Balad's three MKs were legally allowed to ignore the Joint List's recommendation. As a result, Netanyahu lead Gantz in tallied recommendations by a 55 to 54 margin, with Yisrael Beiteinu and Balad not recommending anyone.[21]

Recommendations[edit]

President Rivlin met with representatives of Blue and White, Likud, the Joint List, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu on 22 September to ask for recommendations on whom to select for prime minister. The next day, he met with members of United Torah Judaism, Yamina, Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union.[22]

Party Party Leader Seats Recommended Source
Blue & White Benny Gantz 33 Gantz [23]
Likud Benjamin Netanyahu 32 Netanyahu [23]
Joint List Ayman Odeh 13 divided [24][25]
Hadash Ayman Odeh 5 Gantz [25]
Ta'al Ahmad Tibi 2 Gantz [25]
United Arab List Mansour Abbas 3 Gantz [25]
Balad Mtanes Shehadeh 3 No-one [24][26]
Shas Aryeh Deri 9 Netanyahu [23]
Yisrael Beiteinu Avigdor Lieberman 8 No-one [27]
UTJ Yaakov Litzman 7 Netanyahu [25]
Yamina Ayelet Shaked 7 Netanyahu [25]
Labor-Gesher Amir Peretz 6 Gantz [28]
Democratic Union Nitzan Horowitz 5 Gantz [27]

Rivlin officially chose Netanyahu to form the next government on 25 September,[29] though he conditioned it on Netanyahu giving back the mandate if he failed to form a government, to avoid another dissolution of the Knesset.[30]

Netanyahu agreed to this stipulation and called for a "unity government" between himself, his allied religious parties, and Gantz. Gantz refused, on the basis that he had promised during the election not to join a Netanyahu-led coalition, and furthermore that a coalition that included all of Netanyahu's allies would not truly be a unity government. Efforts to resolve the deadlock were unsuccessful, and on 21 October Netanyahu returned the mandate to Rivlin.[31] On 23 October, Rivlin's office tasked Gantz with forming a government;[32] this mandate was given back to Rivlin on 21 November.[33] From that day, MKs had three weeks in which they could choose to nominate any of themselves to serve as PM. The selected MK would have had to secure the support of 61 MKs.[34] However, no MK was able to form a government, and it was determined on 12 December that a third election would take place on 2 March 2020.[35]

Third election – March 2020[edit]

 On 8 March 2020, Lieberman gave Gantz his backing to form a new government.[36] The next day, the Joint List agreed to work with Gantz and Lieberman to oust Netanyahu.[37] Orly Levy announced on 10 March that she would not support a minority government and had left the Labor–Gesher–Meretz alliance. Blue and White MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel had previously stated that they would not support a government that relied on the Joint List's support.[38] Lieberman and Labor party leader Amir Peretz also reaffirmed on 11 March that an alliance with the Joint List would not change their party's position on forming a political alliance with Gantz.[39] The elected MKs were sworn in on 16 March 2020.[40] On 15 March, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin announced that he had asked Gantz to form the new government after Gantz received support from 61 of the 120 MKs.[41]

Prior to the election, Gantz vowed to form a government that would not include Netanyahu.[42] However, after the election and with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gantz reversed his stance and announced he was willing to support an emergency coalition with Netanyahu.[43] On 21 March, Netanyahu announced negotiations were completed for a national unity government with a rotating prime ministership where Netanyahu served first, to later be replaced by Gantz, though Gantz denied this and claimed negotiations were still ongoing.[44]

Speakership constitutional crisis[edit]

Speaker Yuli Edelstein had held the job since 2013 and kept his job throughout the interim Knessets of 2019. He refused to leave this time and shut down the body as soon as it was sworn in.[45] Edelstein proposed that left and right coalitions hold equal numbers of members in the parliamentary committees with Likud chairpersons,[46] but the opposition refused. They then went to the courts[47] to force the assembly to reopen, in which they were successful.[48][49]

On 23 March, the Supreme Court of Israel unanimously ruled that Edelstein should hold a vote on his replacement as Speaker, criticizing him for defying a previous non-binding ruling by the court advising him to do so. Rather than comply, Edelstein stepped down as the Speaker of the Knesset on 25 March, the first time that a speaker has unilaterally resigned.[50] The court subsequently ruled later on 25 March that Amir Peretz, as the most senior member of the Knesset, would be granted the authority to convene the Knesset for a vote on a new speaker.[51] Gantz then announced that he would stand as a candidate for speaker, resulting in a split of the Blue and White coalition as well as announcements of a deal in which he would serve as speaker until a unity government is formed under Netanyahu, and then would serve as defense minister in the unity government until replacing Netanyahu as prime minister in September 2021. On 26 March, Meir Cohen withdrew his candidacy as speaker and the Knesset elected Gantz as speaker.

Recommendations (March–April 2020)[edit]

Israeli government formation, March–April 2020

← September 2019 March–April 2020 April 2021 →
  Benny Gantz 2019 (cropped).jpg Netanyahu official portrait.jpg
Nominee Benny Gantz Benjamin Netanyahu
Party Blue and White Likud
Electoral vote 61 58
Subsequently nominated via a letter signed by 72 MKs
Investiture vote in favor 73
Investiture vote against 46

Prime minister before election

Benjamin Netanyahu
Likud

Outcome of formation

Benjamin Netanyahu
Likud

President Rivlin met with all elected parties and received their recommendations for prime minister on 15 March.[52] Rivlin gave Gantz the mandate to form a government on 16 March.[53]

Party Party Leader Seats Recommended Source
Likud Benjamin Netanyahu 36 Netanyahu [54]
Blue & White Benny Gantz 33 Gantz [54]
Joint List Ayman Odeh 15 Gantz [54]
Shas Aryeh Deri 9 Netanyahu [55]
UTJ Yaakov Litzman 7 Netanyahu [56]
Labor–Gesher–Meretz Amir Peretz 7 divided [52]
Labor Amir Peretz 3 Gantz [52]
Meretz Nitzan Horowitz 3 Gantz [52]
Gesher Orly Levy 1 No-one [52]
Yisrael Beiteinu Avigdor Lieberman 7 Gantz [57]
Yamina Naftali Bennett 6 Netanyahu [58]

Before the election, Gantz vowed to form a government that would not include Netanyahu.[59] Initially an attempt was made to form a minority government with external support from the Joint List, however this initiative promptly collapsed as MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser announced they would vote against such a government, citing an electoral promise not to lean on the Joint List which includes "terror supporters" such as Balad. During the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel, Gantz reversed his stance and announced he was willing to support an emergency coalition with Netanyahu.[60] On 21 March, Netanyahu announced negotiations were completed for a national unity government with a rotating prime ministership where Netanyahu would serve first, and would later be replaced by Gantz, although Gantz denied this and claimed negotiations were still ongoing.[61] On 26 March, one day after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein resigned, Gantz instead agreed to become Speaker of the Knesset.[62][63] The fact that right-wingers in Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition agreed to support Gantz's bid to become speaker put the future of the Blue and White alliance in jeopardy. The same day Gantz was elected as the new Speaker of the Knesset by a margin of 74–18.[63]

On 27 March 2020, it was revealed that a major obstacle to a possible long-term alliance between Gantz and Netanyahu emerged with regard to implementing U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan. Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 news revealed that Gantz, despite previously claiming that he wanted to implement the peace plan, still wanted to hold peace talks with the Palestinians, which Trump and Netanyahu still opposed. Ravid stated that this would likely make the upcoming deal between Gantz and Netanyahu short-lived. As part of the proposed coalition deal between Netanyahu and Gantz, Gantz was to replace Netanyahu as Prime Minister of Israel after 18 months' government.[64] Gantz's term as prime minister-designate was going to end on 14 April,[65] though President Rivlin extended it until 15 April.[66]

Coalition government[edit]

On 20 April 2020, Gantz and Netanyahu announced that agreement on a unity government had been reached. The deal would involve both parties sharing power, and Gantz and Netanyahu taking turns being prime minister. Under the terms of the agreement Netanyahu was to be prime minister until October 2021, with Gantz serving as vice prime minister. After that time the men were to exchange roles. However, should Netanyahu leave the premiership early, Gantz was to take over the role. Several watchdog groups in Israel, including the Movement for Quality Government in Israel and other groups, reacted to the news by petitioning the Supreme Court to block the formation of the government due to the indictment of Netanyahu.[67]

On 7 May 2020, Netanyahu won the support of 72 MKs to form a government, with Rivlin giving Netanyahu a two-week mandate to form a government shortly after.[68] The parties who gave their support included Blue and White, Likud, Derekh Eretz, Gesher, Shas and United Torah Judaism as well as two of the three members of the Labor Party.[69]

Members of government[edit]

On 17 May 2020, the following were announced to the Knesset as members in the new government:[70]

Ministers[edit]

Portfolio Minister Party
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Likud
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz Blue and White
Minister of Defense
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Alon Schuster Blue and White
Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata Blue and White
Minister of Community Empowerment and Advancement Orly Levy-Abekasis Gesher
Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel (May 2020–Dec. 2020) Derekh Eretz
Benny Gantz (Dec. 2020 – May 2021) Blue and White
Eitan Ginzburg (since May 2021) Blue and White
Minister of Housing and Construction Yaakov Litzman (May 2020–Sep. 2020) United Torah Judaism
Benjamin Netanyahu (Sep. 2020–Oct. 2020) Likud
Yitzhak Cohen (Oct. 2020–Nov. 2020) Shas
Yaakov Litzman (Nov. 2020–present) United Torah Judaism
Minister of Culture and Sport Hili Tropper Blue and White
Minister of Cyber and National Digital Matters Dudi Amsalem Likud
Minister in the Defense Ministry Michael Biton Blue and White
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich Blue and White
Minister of the Economy Amir Peretz Labor
Blue and White (not an MK)
Minister of Education Yoav Galant Likud
Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel Likud
Minister of Finance Israel Katz Likud
Minister in the Finance Ministry Yitzhak Cohen (Oct. 2020–Nov. 2020) Shas
Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi Blue and White
Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein Likud
Minister of Higher Education Ze'ev Elkin (May 2020–Dec. 2020) Likud
Yoav Galant (Jan. 2021–present) Likud
Minister of Water Ze'ev Elkin (May 2020–Dec. 2020) Likud
Yuval Steinitz (Jan. 2021–present) Likud
Minister of Intelligence Eli Cohen Likud
Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri Shas
Minister of the Development of the Periphery Aryeh Deri Shas
Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Rafi Peretz The Jewish Home
Minister of Justice Avi Nissenkorn (May 2020–Jan. 2021) Blue and White
Benny Gantz (Jan. 2021–Apr. 2021);
(Apr. 2021–present)
Blue and White
Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services Itzik Shmuli (Jan. 2021–Feb. 2021) Labor
Benny Gantz (since Feb. 2021) Blue and White
Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Yuval Steinitz Likud
Minister of Internal Security Amir Ohana Likud
Minister of Regional Cooperation Gilad Erdan (May 2020–Jul. 2020) Likud
Ofir Akunis (Jul. 2020–present) Likud
Minister of Religious Affairs Ya'akov Avitan Shas
Minister of Science and Technology Yizhar Shai (May 2020-Jan. 2021) Blue and White
Hili Tropper (since May 2021) Blue and White
Minister of Settlement Affairs Tzipi Hotovely (May 2020–Aug. 2020) Likud
Tzachi Hanegbi (Aug. 2020–present) Likud
Minister for Social Equality Meirav Cohen (May 2020–Jan. 2021) Blue and White
Itzik Shmuli (Jan. 2021 – May 2021) Labor
Michael Biton (since May 2021) Blue and White
Minister of Strategic Affairs Orit Farkash-Hacohen (May 2020–Nov. 2020) Blue and White
Michael Biton (Nov. 2020–present) Blue and White
Minister of Tourism Asaf Zamir (May 2020–Oct. 2020) Blue and White
Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Oct. 2020–present) Blue and White
Minister of Transportation Miri Regev Likud
Minister without portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi (May 2020–Aug. 2020) Likud

Deputy ministers[edit]

Portfolio Deputy Minister Party
Deputy Prime Minister's Office Fateen Mulla Likud
Deputy Minister of Finance Yitzhak Cohen (May 2020–Oct. 2020; Nov. 2020–present) Shas
Deputy Minister of Internal Security Gadi Yevarkan Likud
Deputy Minister of Health Yoav Kisch Likud
Deputy Minister of Education Meir Porush United Torah Judaism
Deputy Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services Meshulam Nahari Shas
Deputy Minister of Interior Yoav Ben Tzur Shas
Deputy Minister of Transportation Uri Maklev United Torah Judaism

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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