200507 Israel
A woman wears a mask for protection against the spread of the coronavirus holds a sign that reads: 'a government with 36 ministers? Where is the shame?'" in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 3, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Jerusalem: Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday approved a coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival-turned-ally Benny Gantz, paving the way for a unity government to be sworn in next week.

The alliance formed last month between the right-wing incumbent and his centrist challenger followed three inconclusive elections in less than a year.

Under the three-year deal, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for 18 months, with Gantz as his alternate, a new position in Israeli governance.

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They will swap roles midway through the deal, with cabinet positions split between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White alliance, as well as their respective allies.

Israel has been without a stable government since December 2018 and the deal offers rare political stability as the country seeks to repair the economic damage wrought by the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 16,000 people in the country.

The pact’s opponents sought to torpedo it in court, arguing Netanyahu should be barred from forming a government while under criminal indictment and that certain provisions in the agreement broke the law.

But the Supreme court ruled that “there was no legal reason to prevent the formation of a government” led by Netanyahu.

As the decision was delivered, Likud and Blue and White said in a joint statement that the new government would be sworn in on May 13.