israeli parliament rejects bill to delay election call

Israel parliament rejects bill to delay election call

Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday rejected a bill to give the government more time to pass a budget, raising the likelihood that parliament will dissolve and force a fourth election in less than two years.

Israel’s coalition government — a broken marriage between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival, Defence Minister Benny Gantz — has been inching towards collapse for weeks.

Under the current arrangement between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and Gantz’s centre-left Blue and White, the coalition has until one minute past midnight on Wednesday to agree a budget for the current year.Benjamin Netanyahu wearing a suit and tie: Israel parliament rejects bill to delay election call© Provided by Khaleej Times Israel parliament rejects bill to delay election call

If a 2020 budget is not passed, Israel’s 120 seat parliament, the Knesset, would dissolve, with new elections held as early as March.

Gantz, a former army chief, has accused Netanyahu of refusing to approve a budget for personal political reasons.

The three-year coalition deal stipulates that Netanyahu serves as premier for 18 months, with Gantz, currently the alternate prime minister, taking over in November 2021.

Related Slideshow: News in Pictures (Provided by Photo Services)

Slide 1 of 126: Secretary Ministry of Economic Affairs of Pakistan, Noor Ahmed (L) and Yves Manville (R), Deputy Head of Mission of the French embassy to Pakistan, exchange agreement copies of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), in Islamabad on December 21, 2020.   (Photo by Farooq NAEEM / AFP) (Photo by FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP via Getty Images)Next SlideFull Screen1/126 SLIDES © Farooq Naeem/AFP via Getty ImagesPakistan’s Secretary Ministry of Economic Affairs Noor Ahmed (L) and Yves Manville (R), deputy head of Mission of the French Embassy to Pakistan, exchange agreement copies of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Dec. 21, 2020.   

Gantz had insisted the coalition pass a budget covering both 2020 and 2021, arguing Israel needs stability after its worst ever political crisis and with its economy devastated by the pandemic.

Netanyahu has refused to endorse a 2021 budget.

That, according to his critics, was a political tactic to keep the coalition unstable and make it easier for him to sink the government before he must hand power to Gantz.

Late Sunday, Blue and White said it had reached an agreement with Likud on a bill to buy more time.

The bill would have pushed back the deadline for approving a 2020 budget to December 31. The government would then have had until January 5 to pass a 2021 budget.

Earlier Monday, there were indications the bill was poised to pass with support from Likud and Blue and White.

But later in the day Netanyahu and Gantz engaged in yet another war of words.

Netanyahu said Gantz had “decided to renege” on promises he made, accusing him of “dragging (Israel) to unnecessary elections in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.”

Gantz insisted that he had presented Netanyahu with clear conditions to avoid another vote.

“If Likud won’t meet our demands, we will head to elections with our head held high,” he said.

The bill was defeated with 49 lawmakers voting against and 47 voting in favour.

– ‘We’ll win’ –

Netanyahu and Gantz both had reasons to avoid imminent new elections.

The premier on Saturday received the first of two jabs, kicking off Israel’s national coronavirus vaccination effort, but the country remains in the grips of pandemic-driven economic crisis.

Influential right-winger Gideon Saar has left Likud and is forming his own party to challenge Netanyahu.

Multiple recent polls suggest Saar could peel substantial support away from Netanyahu if elections were held soon.

A March vote also would force Netanyahu to campaign while appearing in court for his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

He is accused of accepting improper gifts and seeking to trade favours with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage, but denies wrongdoing.

Speaking alongside White House advisor Jared Kushner who was in Jerusalem on Monday, Netanyahu voiced confidence of victory should an election be called.

“We don’t want elections,” the veteran premier said.

“But if elections are forced on us, we’ll win, since everyone can see our accomplishments,” he added, listing historic normalisation agreements with multiple Arab countries, as well the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Meanwhile, Gantz’s political fortunes appear to have plummeted.

Blue and White fractured in April when he decided to strike a deal with Netanyahu and recent polls suggest the party would only win a handful of seats if elections were held soon. AdChoices

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