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Benny Gantz Elected Israeli Speaker, Handing Power Back to Netanyahu

After a year of political deadlock in Israel, Benny Gantz was elected Speaker of the Israeli Parliament and expressed his desire to form an emergency national government. Gantz is set to serve in a Netanyahu-led government, Gantz’s main political rival. Gantz’s backing will now almost certainly allow the indicted prime minister to continue in his role and continue his streak as longest-serving leader in the country’s history.

Gantz’s move to Speaker drew accusations of betrayal from former supporters and set off the dissolution of the Blue and White political party that had formed a year ago and included Gantz’s own Israel Resilience party. It appears that Israel Resilience will come under the umbrella of the right-wing bloc of the Israeli Knesset, forming a majority for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for unity, Gantz said he will “do the right thing at this time of emergency.” Although the move has been hailed as a clear victory for Netanyahu, both sides need to come to an agreement in order to form a unity government. Gantz had previously refused to be in a Netanyahu government, citing the prime minister’s corruption charges.

Yair Lapid, one of Gantz’s closest allies in the Blue and White party, expressed his extreme displeasure with Gantz’s move. “Benny Gantz decided today to break apart Blue and White and crawl into Netanyahu’s government. It’s a disappointing decision,” Lapid said, speaking in Tel Aviv Thursday night. “What’s being formed today isn’t a unity government and not an emergency government. It’s another Netanyahu government.”

Sources: CNN, 3/27/20; NPR, 3/26/20; BBC, 3/26/20.