Israel lawmakers endorse Netanyahu-Gantz government

The Israeli parliament backed the coalition deal by 71 votes to 37, a statement said. Above, an electoral billboard featuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 07 May 2020

Israel lawmakers endorse Netanyahu-Gantz government

  • The two men plan to swear in their new administration on May 13, with Netanyahu remaining leader for 18 months, before handing over to Gantz

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received crucial support in his bid to form a unity government Thursday, inching closer to ending more than a year of political deadlock.
Lawmakers first voted in favour of a coalition pact between Israel's longest-serving leader and his erstwhile rival Benny Gantz, then called on President Reuven Rivlin to task Netanyahu with forming that government.
The coalition deal will see the rightwing veteran premier share power with Gantz, a centrist former military chief.
The two men plan to swear in their new administration on May 13, with Netanyahu remaining leader for 18 months, before handing over to Gantz.
The other will serve as alternate PM, a newly created position.
Representatives of Netanyahu's Likud party and Gantz's Blue and White presented Rivlin's office with a request, signed by 72 of the country's 120 MPs, that Netanyahu be mandated to form a government.
It was delivered hours ahead of a midnight (2100 GMT Thursday) deadline.
A statement from the presidency said the law allowed up to two days for possible objections before the process was finalised.
The proposed government had also been challenged in the high court, with opponents arguing Netanyahu was ineligible due to corruption indictments.
But the court ruled on Wednesday evening that there was "no legal reason to prevent the formation of a government" led by Netanyahu.
It added that the allegations against Netanyahu could be addressed in his trial, due to begin on May 24.
Netanyahu has been written off by pundits and rivals many times since taking power in 2009, but the man sometimes dubbed "the magician" has invariably found ways to remain in the hot seat.
As well as rebuilding an economy shaken by the coronavirus, the new government will also decide on the possible annexation of large parts of the West Bank, a move from which successive governments have refrained since Israel occupied the territory in the Six-Day War of 1967.
Israel has been without a stable government since December 2018, holding three successive elections in which Gantz's centrist Blue and White and Netanyahu's Likud were near neck-and-neck.
Netanyahu has remained in power in a caretaker capacity throughout.
In January, he was charged with accepting improper gifts and illegally trading favours in exchange for positive media coverage.
He denies wrongdoing, but if the trial goes ahead as planned he will become the first serving Israeli leader to be tried.
After the third election in March, Gantz broke with large parts of Blue and White and agreed to form a unity government.
He said it was necessary to provide political stability as the country seeks to repair the economic damage wrought by a coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 16,000 people.
Gantz's critics, including many former allies, accused him of betraying his voters after campaigning for cleaner politics and pledging not to serve under an indicted prime minister.
"Never have so few cheated so many voters for such miserable reasons," former Gantz ally Yair Lapid, poised to become opposition leader, tweeted Thursday.
Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank, said neither Gantz nor Netanyahu had faith in the other's intentions.
"There is zero trust -- this is probably the main characteristic of this political agreement," he told journalists.
"Therefore a new regime was created whereby we have two prime ministers, both with veto power."


Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

Pedestrians, wearing face masks, walk in a street of Ankara on November 20, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2020

Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

  • 20% of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return
  • No PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers entering the country. It is a very big mistake

ANKARA: Unofficial sources have warned that numbers of COVID-19 cases in Turkey are skyrocketing.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) estimated that daily COVID-19 cases have risen to more than 47,500, of which about 12,500 are in Istanbul. This would represent a 300 percent increase in November compared to the month before.

According to official data, however, Turkey recorded 5,103 new COVID-19 patients on Nov. 20 — the second highest new daily figure since March — and its highest daily death toll with 141 fatalities.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu announced that 186 people died from “infectious diseases” in the city on Nov. 22 — more than the official countrywide death toll. (The Turkish health ministry is accused of classifying some COVID-related deaths as "infection-related deaths")

The TTB, whose data drew on figures from 1,270 medics in 76 provinces, claimed that someone in Turkey dies from COVID-19 every 10 minutes. It declared that “they have lost control of the pandemic.”

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms. Following this admission Turkey was put on the UK’s quarantine-on-arrival list in early October.

BACKGROUND

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms.

Reports drawing on Israeli health ministry data say that 20 percent of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return home, which experts consider a worryingly high figure.

Everyone arriving in Israel is obliged to self-isolate for 14 days. There is no such an obligation in Turkey.

“The countries which prove successful in managing the pandemic are those that apply strict quarantine rules and rigorously regulate arrivals in the country. But this is not the case in Turkey nowadays,” said Guner Sonmez, a radiologist from Uskudar University in Istanbul.

“Only one case can again trigger a whole chain of contagion and begin a new wave of pandemic. However, no PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers who enter the country. It is a very big mistake for managing the dynamics of the pandemic.”

Turkey recently re-introduced a partial evening curfew and restrictions on the weekends, although scientists have been urging a full 14-day lockdown.