Netanyahu reaches threshold for forming government

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday he has cobbled together enough lawmakers to form a government, a step that will send him back to the premiership after three inconclusive elections.

Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the ultra-Orthodox Shas faction came to a coalition agreement Wednesday. That, along with an earlier deal with the Blue and White party led by former army chief Benny Gantz, gives Netanyahu the 61-seat majority he needed to form a government.

Netanyahu submitted a letter to Israel’s ceremonial president announcing his achievement, setting the stage for the government to be sworn in Thursday. Netanyahu has been prime minister for more than a decade, defying critics who had written him off and cementing his reputation as a political wizard.

The announcement Wednesday was procedural and expected. Netanyahu and his rival-turned-ally Gantz came to a power-sharing agreement last month, putting Likud and its traditional nationalist-religious allies over the threshold.

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The swearing in caps a tumultuous year for Israeli politics. After three elections ended in stalemate, Israel appeared headed for an unprecedented fourth until Gantz, spurred on by the fallout from the coronavirus crisis, reneged on his campaign promise to never sit in a government under an indicted Netanyahu and agreed to join him.

Their power-sharing deal, forming an “emergency” government focusing on the coronavirus crisis, will see them each as prime minister for 18 months, beginning with Netanyahu.

Another ultra-Orthodox party is also expected to join the government.

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