Israel swears in unity government after long political crisis

(BBC) – Israel has sworn in a unity government after the longest political crisis in the country’s history, and amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under a power-sharing deal agreed in April, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu will serve for another 18 months.

His centrist rival Benny Gantz will serve as deputy PM, before taking over.

The two politicians have agreed to press ahead with a controversial plan to annex part of the occupied West Bank area as early as 1 July.

Palestinian leaders reject the legitimacy of the move.

Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz arrives for a swearing in ceremony in Israel's parliament in Jerusalem. Photo: 17 May 2020Image copyrightAFP/GETTY IMAGES

Mr Netanyahu, who leads the Likud party, and Mr Gantz of the Blue and White party, have also said the new government’s priority will be tackling the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The power-sharing agreement ends more than a year of political deadlock in which three elections were held but failed to yield an agreement.

The formation of the new government comes days before Mr Netanyahu will go on trial on bribery and fraud charges – a first for a sitting prime minister in Israel. He denies any wrongdoing.

What’s the latest from Israel?

On Sunday, Mr Netanyahu presented his new government in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. “The public wants a unity government, and that’s what the public is getting today,” he said at the start of the session in Jerusalem.

On the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Mr Netanyahu said: “It’s time to apply the Israeli law, and write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism.”

His plan falls in line with US President Donald Trump’s “vision for peace” between Israel and the Palestinians, which was unveiled in January. Mr Trump’s plan also envisages a Palestinian state in about 70% of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and with its capital on the fringes of East Jerusalem.

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