Gantz In, His Political Partners Out: This Is What Netanyahu's New Government Would Look Like

Gantz's election as Knesset speaker likely paves way for unity government, in which his own role remains unclear

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, March 3, 2020
Daniel Bar-On

Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi appear to be heading into a unity government, which will enable Benjamin Netanyahu to lead his fifth term as prime minister for the next year and a half.

Under the apparent agreement between Kahol Lavan and Likud, Ashkenazi will be defense minister, while Gantz’s role remains unclear. Kahol Lavan will break up, with Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon taking their seats in the opposition.

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Last week Gantz was undecided on whether to enter a Netanyahu-led government, and at a certain point even leaned toward supporting an emergency government from the outside. Ultimately he’s heading inside.

The two sides haven’t agreed on all the issues yet, but Gantz still has two weeks to try to assemble a government. If Netanyahu is to become prime minister, Gantz must return the mandate to the president, who must then task Netanyahu with forming a government.

Under the current agreement, Gantz would become prime minister in a year and a half. Gabi Ashkenazi, also a former IDF chief-of-staff will take over the Defense Ministry. It’s not clear whether Gantz will serve as foreign minister or deputy prime minister until the time comes to swap with Netanyahu. The date of the swap is expected to be fixed by legislation ahead of swearing in the new government.

Kahol Lavan’s Chili Tropper will be justice minister, with both sides agreeing to maintain the status quo both in the justice system and on religion and state issues. Likud negotiators had wanted Ruth Gavison for the post, but this was rejected.

Likud will keep the Public Security Ministry and Miri Regev has been promised to head it. Ultra-Orthodox party leader Yaakov Litzman will retain the Health Ministry. The remaining portfolios are yet to be allocated.

Although Gantz’s ticket has fewer MKs than the right wing bloc, it was agreed Kahol Lavan would have the same number of portfolios as the right wing bloc, which will make almost every member of Hosen L’Yisrael, Gantz's faction within Kahol Lavan, a minister.

Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Moshe Ya’alon of Telem, the other two factions in the alliance, will not be joining the government. Lapid will serve as opposition chairman. Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether the four members of Ya’alon’s Telem faction will remain with him in the opposition or join the government.

It’s also unclear where Labor is heading. If current leader Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli enter the government, senior Labor MK Merav Michaeli is likely to remain with Meretz in opposition.

In any case, this government will have at least 73 Knesset members in the coalition, so Peretz and Shmuli’s membership won’t make much of a difference.