JERUSALEM, Israel - After 480 days of uncertainty and political turmoil, Israeli leaders agreed to a national unity government.
Just before the opening ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Leader Benny Gantz signed an agreement on a national unity government.
The move prevents Israelis from going to an unprecedented fourth round of elections.
Netanyahu and Gantz each tweeted their responses.
"I promised the State of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu said.
"We prevented a fourth election. We will protect democracy. We will battle corona and we will worry about all the citizens of Israel. We have an emergency unity government," Gantz said.
The deal leaves Netanyahu in office for the next 18 months as prime minister with Gantz as the deputy prime minister. Then they swap positions in October 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout are credited with pushing the leaders into an agreement. Gantz’s campaign focused on getting rid of Netanyahu, who has been indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust.
About 2,000 Israelis protested earlier against a unity government. But most Israelis just breathed a sigh of relief.
“I think people have been waiting for both the leaders of the Likud and Blue and White to put this unity government together,” said Ambassador Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, and President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
“This is the kind of situation where you don’t want to have a political battle. You don’t want to have disagreements about what should have been done and what shouldn’t have been done. You want the country to pull together and adhere to the suggestions coming out of the various ministries of how to reduce the threat and the danger of the coronavirus here in Israel,” Gold told CBN News.
The deal puts Israel on track to implement President Trump’s peace plan and apply sovereignty in biblical Judea and Samaria when maps are finalized in July.
But Gold said for now the main thing is dealing with COVID-19.
“The success or failure of the coronavirus will not be determined by how much territory we’re sitting in or where we’re sitting. What we need to do is get this resolved, I’m talking about the medical side and then we’ll go back to the diplomacy where I think Israel has historical rights and an urgency in light of what’s going on with Iran and the countries of the region to make sure that we have defensible borders,” Gold said.