New government could be sworn in Sunday; virus in retreat: Israel Update
May 15, 2020
Hours before Israel's new unity government was set to be sworn in on Thursday, Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz accepted a request by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push off the event to Sunday, as the Likud leader struggled to distribute the remaining ministerial posts to lawmakers from his right-wing bloc. On Wednesday, Netanyahu had informed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and outgoing Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz that he had already managed to form a government within the two weeks allocated to him. Following a joint statement from Blue and White and Likud parties, Gantz told the Knesset that he was withdrawing his resignation as speaker of parliament, a move that prevented Likud’s Yariv Levin from stepping into that role. Retaining the speakership ostensibly gives Gantz leverage to prevent Netanyahu from canceling the swearing-in altogether and force a fourth round of elections. The two sides have until midnight this coming Wednesday to swear in the new government, or elections will be automatically triggered.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel on Wednesday to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner Benny Gantz. Pompeo used his visit to praise Israel’s handling of the coronavirus and to urge the Israeli leaders to consider “all the factors” involved in the proposed annexation of the occupied West Bank. For the Palestinians and much of the international community, the proposed annexation would sink any hope of a two-state solution to the conflict. This issue has also stoked tensions with Jordan, which shares a strategic border with Israel and is one of only two Arab states to have a peace deal with the country. Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that "any Israeli decision to annex the settlements, the Jordan Valley, and the [area] north of the Dead Sea in occupied Palestine, will be a disastrous step”.
The Wadi Ara interchange was blocked Thursday evening after clashes erupted between locals and law enforcement, during the lead up to a funeral for Mustafa Younis, a 26-year-old Wadi Ara resident, who was shot and killed on Wednesday, at Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv. Younis stabbed a security guard during an altercation about him not wearing a protective face mask. Hundreds of protesters gathered on Highway 65 to protest. Among the participants were Joint List MKs and local municipal leaders. Police forces fired stun grenades toward the protesters and ten locals were arrested for throwing stones at law enforcement, according to the Police Spokesperson's Unit.