(JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially announced on Wednesday evening, May 11, that he had succeeded in forming a new government, 18 months after the first of three rounds of Knesset elections was held. Netanyahu sent letters to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, who assumed the role of defense minister and vice premier when the government was sworn in on Thursday night, May 14. According to the terms of the coalition agreement, Gantz will take over the premiership in a year and a half, at which time Netanyahu will become vice prime minister.
The parties that have joined the coalition are the Likud, headed by Netanyahu; Blue and White, led by Gantz; Shas, led by Aryeh Deri; United Torah Judaism, led by outgoing Health Minister Yaakov Litzman; Labor, under chairman Amir Peretz; Derech Eretz, led by Yoaz Hendel and Tzvi Hauser; and Gesher, headed by Orly Levy-Abekasis.
Efforts to persuade Naftali Bennett’s Yamina Party to join failed. Outgoing Defense Minister Bennett, whose ideology is similar to that of Netanyahu’s but who has had strained relations with him for years, announced that he would become a member of the opposition. Outgoing Education Minister Rafi Peretz – who heads Yamina’s Jewish Home faction – announced that he was splitting from Bennett’s party in order to join the new government as minister for Jerusalem affairs and national projects.
The 35th government will be the largest in Israeli history, with 34 ministers. According to its guidelines, it will focus on economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and on healing the country’s social rifts.