Backing comes a day after the Supreme Court cleared PM Netanyahu to form a government.

Israeli MPs have approved the formation of a unity government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz, paving the way to an end to more than a year of deadlock.

Parliament voted by 71 votes to 37 to back the coalition deal that will see Netanyahu and Gantz, a centrist former military leader, share power.

The two leaders have said they will swear in their new administration on May 13, with Netanyahu remaining leader for 18 months, before handing over to Gantz who will be prime minister for the next 18 months.

The proposed government was challenged in the Supreme Court, with opponents arguing Netanyahu was ineligible to rule due to a series of corruption indictments. They also complained that certain provisions in the coalition deal broke the law.

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 by approving the coalition it “was not seeking to diminish the severity of the charges” against Netanyahu, but concluded that those could be handled in his trial, which is due to begin on May 24.

Israel has been without a stable government since December 2018, with the country seeing three successive elections in which Gantz’s centrist Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud were near neck and neck.

During that time Netanyahu has remained in power in a caretaker capacity.

Netanyahu has been 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 this year, Gantz broke with large parts of his Blue and White alliance 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, which has infected more than 16,000 people.

Gantz’s critics, including many former allies, accuse him of betraying his voters after campaigning for cleaner politics and pledging not to serve under an indicted prime minister.

While Israeli law bars ministers from serving while under indictment, there is no such law for prime ministers.