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Knesset passes last-minute bill extending budget deadline, averting elections

Israeli lawmakers passed a last-minute deal extending the deadline to arrive at a national budget and avoid a government collapse on Monday which would have forced the country to a fourth round of elections in one and half years. 

The bill does not present a budget, but rather delays the deadline for voting on one for another 120 days. The same drama could play out come the new deadline — Dec. 23 — if the coalition fails to pass a budget by then.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz both rallied their respective parties to support the bill, breaking a bitter stalemate, at least for now. Netanyahu has been seeking to pass a one-year budget while Gantz, the alternate prime minister in the unity government, was pushing for a two-year budget which would presumably ensure himself the premiership in November 2021, one of the conditions of the unity government. 

The one thing that is glaringly missing from the unity government is unity. And both Netanyahu and Gantz seem to be holding Israel hostage over their desire to be in power. For Bibi, if he passes a two-year budget, it will ensure that, no matter what happens at his trail in December, he will have to cede power to Gantz in just over a year. By passing a one-year budget, he can still blow up the government by not passing another one-year budget, next year—sending Israelis to elections before Gantz can take over as Prime Minister. Of course, they both claim that are doing what is in the best interest of nation.

With deep disagreements and mistrust between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White party, leaders accused one another of causing the breakdown. President Reuven Rivlin pleaded with both parties’ leaders to avoid elections and spare the country more turmoil caused. 

Israel is grappling with the challenges of a high coronavirus infection rate and massive weekly protests against government’s handling of the pandemic. Yesterday we hit another record high in corona infections.

“If we go to elections, blood could yet spill in the streets,” Gantz said explaining why voted not he budget deadline extension. Not exactly what you want to hear from you potential prime minister.

Netanyahu instructed Likud lawmakers to vote in favor of budget postponement as well.

“I will continue to do the right thing, to avoid unnecessary elections,” he said.

Photo: Haim Zach/GPO

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