In America, the words "unified government" probably sound like an oxymoron. But in Israel, where a new deal brings rival parties together to lead the county, it's more than a grand political experiment. It's the new reality.
After three elections in which no one won, suddenly, everyone has. In an agreement struck Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz have agreed to take turns at the helm of the Israeli government. Spurred on in part by the coronavirus emergency, the two sides are determined to find a functional leadership balance during a crisis that's rocked everyone -- including the Middle East. That means that, for at least six months, everyone's focus will be the virus. Nothing outside of the outbreak will be debated or enacted without agreement from both sides.
In the meantime, they'll share power. For the first half of the 36-month period, Netanyahu will continue as prime minister, while Gantz is sworn in as defense minister. A year and a half later, Gantz will take over the reins. The hope is, CBN's Chris Mitchell told me from Jerusalem, it'll be a "stable government" for at least three years.
The experience will be an interesting one for the country, who, under Netanyahu, had a primarily right-of-center government. Some are worried, Chris explained, that Netanyahu made too many concessions to Gantz in the agreement. But, he went on, "one major point for right-wing supporters will be the fact that they will vote on annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria -- also known as the West Bank -- sometime in July. And that has been a major contention for many of the right-wing parties here... that they would be taking advantage of the Trump peace plan [which] really does give Israel sort of a green light, at least a vote, on that annexation..."
But these were all compromises that the parties were willing to make. The Israelis, Chris agreed, didn't want a fourth unresolved election after all the suffering they've gone through. "Just like the U.S., Israel has been on lockdown for several weeks... [And] the Israelis were very frustrated with their political leaders that were unable, at least until today, to come up with some sort of a national emergency government. And I think one of the points to be made is that the government is agreeing for the next six months there will be no major legislation. The only thing they'll be focusing on is specifically the coronavirus."
So for now, at least, there's relief. The last thing any country wants in a state of emergency is more uncertainty. And, "it's also kind of poignant as well," Chris said, since this is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. "And next week will be Israel's Independence Day. So it's a very important part of the Jewish calendar, the Hebrew calendar, and the Israeli calendar here to have this unity government finally come together."