Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and centrist opposition leader Benny Gantz have jointly announced the formation of an emergency unity government. This decision comes in the context of the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

Formation of the War Cabinet

Both leaders agreed to establish a war cabinet, which will include Netanyahu, Gantz, and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as confirmed by a statement from Gantz’s National Unity party. The primary focus of this unity government will be the situation with Hamas in Gaza, and it is stated that they will not pursue any unrelated policy or legislation during this period.

The roles of Netanyahu’s current government partners, which comprise far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties, are yet to be clarified. Israeli news outlet Haaretz has mentioned that former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer will participate as observers.

Background of Domestic Politics

Israel has been addressing domestic political challenges over the recent months. The Netanyahu government has been working on proposed reforms to the judiciary. They assert that these reforms are necessary for the nation, while some critics argue that it might give undue control over the judicial branch. A significant public response has been observed, with extensive protests occurring over the past several months.

Escalating Conflict in Gaza

This governmental reshuffle takes place amid heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas. Reports suggest that a notable act by Hamas in southern Israel led to the deaths of over 1,200 individuals, a significant number of whom were civilians.

In retaliation, Israel has intensified its operations in Gaza. Based on data provided by Palestinian officials, Israeli airstrikes have resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,055 individuals and have wounded around 5,184 in Gaza. These figures have not been independently verified.

The Israeli government has also made decisions impacting the access to water, fuel, and electricity in Gaza, where conditions have been challenging since the 2007 blockade. Some international human rights entities have raised concerns about these actions, though the reasons provided by Israel for such measures are based on security and regional stability.

Details of the Unity Agreement

The decision to form an emergency government was finalized following a meeting between Netanyahu and Gantz at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv. The two leaders engaged in discussions for several days before arriving at this consensus.

As stipulated in the agreement, Gantz will be part of the war cabinet alongside Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Eizenkot and Dermer are set to be observers. Additional positions in this cabinet have been allocated for members of the National Unity party, with a provision for opposition leader Yair Lapid to join if he chooses to.

During the war, the Knesset will exclusively address legislation related to the conflict.

Broader Political Support

Following Netanyahu’s decision to declare war on Hamas, there were widespread calls for the formation of an emergency government. Notably, opposition figures, including Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, expressed their willingness to be part of such a government. It took both Netanyahu and Gantz five days of deliberation to finalize the formation of the emergency government.