Oct 11, 2023 - World

Israel's Netanyahu forms unity government with ex-Defense Minister Gantz

Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. Photos: Jack Guez/AFP/Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz agreed on Wednesday to form an emergency unity government as the fighting with Hamas in Gaza continued for a fifth day.

Why it matters: The fact that Gantz, a member of the opposition, is joining the government underscores how big the crisis in Israel is as a result of the deadly Hamas attack.

  • As a former defense minister, Gantz's role in the new unity government will significantly strengthen the security experience around the decision-making table.
  • Gantz has for months been gaining more favorability than Netanyahu in the polls, mainly due to the government's controversial judicial overhaul.

Driving the news: Since the Hamas attack on Saturday, Gantz and opposition leader Yair Lapid have called for the formation of a unity government.

  • While Lapid demanded that the far-right parties be excluded from the security cabinet in the unity government, Gantz's only condition was to form a smaller ministerial committee that would run the war effort.
  • Netanyahu hesitated for a few days and put forward his own conditions but slowly agreed to move ahead.

Between the lines: According to several reports in the Israeli press, the prime minister's wife Sara Netanyahu objected to the formation of a unity government, which made the move harder.

  • But after reports about her objections emerged, Sara Netanyahu issued a short statement on her Instagram page on Wednesday calling for a unity government.

State of play: The unity government will only exist until the end of the war in Gaza, according to the agreement between Netanyahu and Gantz.

  • A new small "war cabinet" will be formed and Gantz, also a former IDF chief of staff, will be a member with Netanyahu and current Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
  • Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizencot, who is a member of Gantz's party, and current Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer will also join the war cabinet.
  • Opposition leader Yair Lapid will also be able to join the government if he chooses to and be a member of the war cabinet.
  • Netanyahu and Gantz decided that as long as the war is taking place no judicial overhaul legislation will be discussed in the Knesset.

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