Skip to main content

Israel's embattled Netanyahu calls for unity government amid coronavirus outbreak

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called for the formation of an emergency unity government as the country works to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 8, 2020. Oded Balilty/Pool via Reuters - RC2MFF9A26YO

As Israel scrambles to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 100 of its citizens, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called for the formation of an emergency unity government. 

“It will be an emergency government for a limited time, and together we will fight to save the lives of tens of thousands of citizens,” Netanyahu said during televised remarks. 

“What we need right now is national responsibility, and this responsibility supersedes all other considerations,” he added. 

The prime minister also announced the closure of all schools and universities until at least after the Jewish holiday of Passover, which concludes April 16. For now, preschools will remain open. 

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel has reached 109 and includes a 6-month-old baby who tested positive for the virus. The surge in cases prompted the Israeli Ministry of Health to mandate a 100-person limit on events, including weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. 

On Monday, the government announced all citizens returning to the country from abroad would be required to quarantine at home for 14 days. Foreign arrivals will need to prove they have somewhere to self-quarantine in order to be allowed into the country. 

The government has also temporarily closed to Palestinians crossings into Israel from the West Bank and Gaza, with a senior political source telling Al-Monitor that a pandemic in the already impoverished Gaza Strip is Israel’s greatest nightmare. 

The outbreak of the coronavirus and calls for a unity government follow Israel’s third nationwide election in under a year. As with the previous two rounds of voting, the last elections on March 2 ended with both Netanyahu’s Likud and the centrist Blue and White party failing to secure the necessary 61 votes needed to form a new government. 

Earlier Thursday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett called for the country's political parties to overcome their differences and form a unity government led by Netanyahu. 

"Israeli citizens, this is an emergency situation," Bennett said in a statement. "And at such an hour, an emergency government headed by Netanyahu is needed."

Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman called for a unity government consisting of only the Blue and White and Likud parties, The Jerusalem Post reported. 

Netanyahu, the country’s first sitting prime minister to be tried in court, has faced calls to step down by his main rival, former army chief Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust and is due in court for the start of his corruption trial next week. 

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Israel Briefing Israel Briefing

Israel Briefing

Top Israel stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial