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Benny Gantz became the new speaker of the Knesset on Thursday with the support of the right-wing bloc. The vote in the Knesset was 74 to 18 with the rest abstaining. Yair Lapid, Gantz’s partner in Blue and White, instructed members of his Yesh Atid party to abstain in the vote.
Yesh Atid will remain in a political partnership with Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem party. The two parties will work as one faction – and have already submitted the request dissolve Blue & White.
Gantz, who is close to reaching an agreement to join his Israel Resilience party (15 seats) in a unity government under PM Netanyahu, cited the coronavirus epidemic as the reason for his decision.
During the election campaign Gantz had ruled out serving with Netanyahu, but he lacked the support to form a center-left government. Under the proposed agreement between Gantz and the PM, Netanyahu would step down as prime minister within an agreed period, with Gantz then taking over.
The proposed unity government could possibly leave Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party out of the government.
In a speech after being elected Knesset speaker, Gantz said:
“These are not normal days. In these times of emergency, hundreds of thousands of citizens, who have lost their livelihood in recent days, are looking up to us. This emergency is also the climax of the worst and most complicated governmental and parliamentary crisis since the conception of the state. The only reason I decided to nominate myself for Knesset speaker today is to exhaust all available options to form a national emergency government.
I established Blue & White and I am very proud of that. I meant and would still be happy to do everything in my ability so we can keep walking down the same road. I call on all my possible political partners to act in the same way. Let’s not be mistaken, I will not settle for the principles that over a million citizens voted for. Netanyahu knows it well and we’ve proven in the last days. We will not compromise on democracy.”
The number of coronavirus fatalities in Israel has risen to 10. All of the fatalities were between the ages of 67 and 93 and had pre-existing health conditions. The total number of virus cases rose to 3,035.
The cabinet is deliberating whether to impose a total closure. The IDF will deploy 500 armed soldiers to accompany police to enforce Health Ministry regulations.
El Al has decided to halt all flights from Israel until April 4th.
The PM is set to review an NIS 80 billion ($22 billion) aid package for the Israeli economy drawn up by the Finance Ministry to confront the corona crisis.
The package will include billions in unemployment payments to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have registered with the National Employment Service in recent weeks, billions more in funds for the health system, an aid fund for small businesses affected by the pandemic, grants for freelancers, grants for workers over the age of 67, and more.
The Bank of Israel and retail banks have said they will take a series of policy measures to mitigate damage to the economy, including buying government bonds, offering repo transactions, delaying mortgage payments, offering loans to small and mid-sized businesses, expanding digital services for remote transactions, and providing courier services to customers in quarantine.