Israel's Netanyahu and Gantz end year-long conflict,agree to form coalition

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and the opposition leader, Benny Gantz, have agreed to form a national unity government it has been announced.

The deal comes after a year-long political crisis and will reportedly see the rivals rotating the leadership of the country, with Mr Netanyahu going first as PM.

The pair had faced calls to avoid a fourth election and form a coalition to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“An agreement for the establishment of a national emergency government is now being signed,” the joint statement said.

The deal was a significant turnaround for Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, who appeared to be flagging in recent weeks under the strain of three corruption indictments and mediocre election performance.

The agreement is expected to see Mr Netanyahu remain as prime minister for 18 months, during which time his delayed trial on corruption charges is due to start. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Gantz will reportedly start off as defence minister, before taking over as prime minister late next year.

Many had expected the stalemate to continue, following three back-to-back elections that produced similar results and with little progress made between the two rivals during months of talks.

Meanwhile, outbreaks of the virus, which has been under lockdown, prompted the parties to break the deadlock and make a decision.Israel has reported 13,654 cases of Covid-19 and 173 associated deaths. More than 150 patients are in a serious condition in hospital. The leaders at a glance

Benjamin Netanyahu Born in Tel Aviv to secular Jewish parents, Netanyahu was raised in both Jerusalem and the Philadelphia area of the United States. He returned to Israel after graduating high school in 1967 to join the Israel Defense Forces shortly after the Six-Day War.Netanyahu became a team leader in the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit Netanyahu fought on the front lines in the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, taking part in special forces raids along the Suez Canal and then leading a commando assault deep into Syrian territory. He also achieved the rank of captain before being discharged.

After graduating from MIT with a Bachelor of Science (SB) and a Master of Science (SM), Netanyahu became an economic consultant for the Boston Consulting Group.

In more than 13 years as prime minister, Mr Netanyahu has become both Israel's longest-serving leader and the first to be indicted on criminal charges while in office.

Lauded by his supporters as "King Bibi" and as a "magician" for his knack of winning elections, the leader of Israel's right-wing Likud party has been in power since 1996, after an early election following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

His success in polls has owed much to his image as the person who can best keep Israel safe from hostile forces in the Middle East.

He has taken a hard line towards the Palestinians, putting Israel's security concerns at the top of any discussion of peace, and long warned of danger from Iran. Benny Gantz Benny Gantz was born in 1959 in Kfar Ahim, a co-operative farmers' village in central Israel founded by immigrants. His father and mother, Nahum and Malka, were survivors of the Holocaust.

The 60-year-old retired lieutenant-general is a newcomer to politics, forming the Blue and White party in February 2019, promising to unite a country that had "lost its way".

Mr Gantz attended a boarding school in a youth village near Tel Aviv when he was a teen.

After finishing school he enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1977 and joined the Paratroopers Brigade. His first assignment was to help provide security for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Israel. As head of the IDF's Judea Brigade in 1994, he was tasked with restoring security in the divided city of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, after a Jewish settler killed 29 Palestinians in an attack at the revered Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque site.

By 1999, he had effectively become the top Israeli officer in southern Lebanon - a position he took on after his predecessor was killed by a roadside bomb.

At the end of 2007 he left Israel to serve as the country's military attaché in Washington DC - a position he held for two years, before being called back to Israel to serve as the IDF's deputy chief of staff.

In 2011, he became the IDF's 20th chief of staff after a dispute between then Defence Minister Ehud Barak and the outgoing IDF chief of staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi, over candidates and the disqualification of the frontrunner.

When Mr Gantz's military career came to an end in 2015,MrNetanyahu is said to have praised his decades of "excellent service" and described him as "a high-quality, ethical, responsible, balanced and thoughtful chief of staff".

However, four years later, Mr Netanyahu had nothing nice to say to the man who had become his main rival for the premiership, dismissing him as a "weak leftist".