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Weekly Newsletter
April 22, 2020
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Israeli Politics: Netanyahu and Gantz agree to form new government

The Likud and Blue and White have agreed to form an “emergency national unity government.” Benjamin Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for the first 18 months, after which Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who will first serve as defence minister and deputy prime minister, will automatically rotate in to become prime minister.

  • The government will initially have 32 ministers, divided equally between the Netanyahu-led and Gantz-led blocs. The Likud and its right-wing partners will receive the Finance, Health, Internal Security, Construction, Transportation and Education portfolios. Blue and White will receive the Defence, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Economy, Communications and Culture portfolios. The Knesset speaker will be a member of the Likud for the whole duration of the government. Blue and White member Gabi Ashkenazi will serve as foreign minister for the first 18 months before being replaced by someone from Likud.
  • The coalition is initially expected to include 72 MKs: Likud with 36 MKs, Shas with 9, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) with 7, and Orly Levy-Abekasis. Blue and White have 15 MKs, as well as Derech Eretz’s Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, and Labour’s Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli, for a total of 19 MKs.
  • The rotation of prime minister will happen automatically, without requiring a separate vote or decision. Each man will be the other’s “acting prime minister.” An official residence will be provided for the acting prime minister.  
  • The government will focus almost exclusively on handling the coronavirus crisis for the first six months. In that time, the sides will negotiate a broader legislative agenda and will also refrain from making major appointments, including the attorney general and police commissioner.
  • The sides agreed that as of 1 July 2020, the government and/or the Knesset can vote on annexing parts of the West Bank, on the basis of the Trump plan.
  • The Israeli ambassador to the US will be appointed by whoever is prime minister. Other senior ambassadorial positions, will be appointed by Netanyahu and will not change when Gantz takes over.
  • The new government will finally replace the caretaker government that has been in place since an election was called in December 2018.
  • This will be the largest government in Israel’s history, with an initial 32 ministers, rising to 36 after six months. It is the first time in 36 years that Israel will have a rotating prime minister.
  • According to the agreement, the adoption of the Trump plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace will be done in coordination with the US. The joint US-Israel committee, set up following the release of the Trump plan in January 2020, is expected to complete their mapping of the West Bank soon. According to the agreement, they will also “engage in dialogue” with the international community “with the aim of preserving security and strategic interests including regional security, preserving existing peace agreements and working towards future peace agreements”.
  • The new government is expected to be sworn in only after Israel’s Independence Day at the end of next week. The Knesset is first expected to confirm the rotation agreement and enshrine it in legislation that also includes the newly formulated status of the alternate prime minister.
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Israel starts first stage of coronavirus exit strategy
Israel’s cabinet has eased some of the coronavirus restrictions to allow for more economic activity.
  • The government announced that 30 per cent of the workforce can to go back to work, provided the workplace met Health Ministry guidelines. Many shops can be reopened, except those in shopping malls and outdoor markets and stores that sell clothing, shoes and toys will remain closed. Public transportation will also increase to accommodate the scope of commercial activity.
  • Small groups of disabled children in special-education can now return to school, whilst groups of three families are allowed to organize shared childcare services for their children. Yesterday also saw a re-concerted effort by schools to engage in remote learning.
  • People will be allowed to go outdoors to play sport activities in couples. Up to 19 people will be permitted to gather outside synagogues to worship together, provided they all wear masks. However, beaches, parks, playgrounds and municipal sports areas will remain closed. 
  • So far, 13,942 Israelis have tested positive for the coronavirus and 184 have died.139 patients are in serious condition and 4,507have recovered. On Sunday, there were only 109 patients on ventilators, a 7.6 per cent decline from the previous day’s figures.
  • The government’s decision to relax restrictions come as over half a million self-employed business owners are without any possibility of working from home. The self-employed and small business owners are requesting equal rights to employees when calculating unemployment benefit and to establish a compensation fund for businesses.
  • The Finance Ministry wants to expand economic activity to 50 per cent in the near future and to reach 100 per cent within one month’s time. However, the Health Ministry is arguing that there should be fewer than 100 newly-infected people in Israel before the lifting of public restrictions, whereas the cabinet ministers have demanded that shopping malls, hairdressers and beauticians be allowed to reopen for business.
  • The easing of conditions is not without risks, an anonymous cabinet minister told Maariv. “The public is liable to interpret the eased restrictions as a return to normal life and might not maintain the rules of social distancing and the lockdown. That is liable to lead to a large-scale outbreak. It must be understood: the objective of the eased restrictions is to facilitate commerce and employment, not leisure activity.”
  • The workplace regulations described above are currently in effect until 30 April.



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