Cabinet post disputes delay Israel unity government inauguration

Cabinet post disputes delay Israel unity government inauguration

The planned inauguration of an Israeli unity government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been postponed until Sunday, in last-minute wrangling over cabinet appointments, an official statement said.

Under a coalition deal with his former election rival, centrist Benny Gantz, Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for 18 months before the former armed forces chief replaces him.

Their unity government deal ends more than a year of political deadlock in which three inconclusive elections were held.

Netanyahu asked his rival-turned-ally Gantz to postpone the swearing-in so he could finalize cabinet assignments among members of his right-wing Likud party, said a joint statement from Likud and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White political alliance. “Gantz agreed to Netanyahu’s request,” the statement said.

Netanyahu and former military chief Gantz agreed to a three-year coalition government last month, after more than 500 days of political deadlock and three inconclusive elections in less than a year.

Through the three weeks, since the pact was signed, leaders from various parties have haggled for key positions. In a letter sent to President Reuven Rivlin late on Wednesday, Netanyahu, in power since 2009, announced he had formed a government.

Gantz will be alternate prime minister – a new position in Israeli governance – for the first half of the deal, before he and Netanyahu swap roles.

The unity agreement would also leave Netanyahu in power throughout a trial due to begin on May 24, the first such proceedings against a sitting Israeli prime minister.

Pro-Netanyahu paper Israel Hayom wrote on Thursday that the leader had signed off on his own “expiration date” after the longest tenure as prime minister in Israeli history.