In the midst of daily protests against the government’s handling of the pandemic and skyrocketing unemployment across the country, rumors of new elections are flitting through the political scene — while the ink on the new coalition agreement has not even dried.
And while the national unrest is directed against the current government, the shocking idea of new elections appears to come from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own office. Despite suffering from a record low approval rating, Bibi actually stands to gain from new elections.
Haaretz speculated that Netanyahu may want to risk another election in order to regain control over the Justice Ministry portfolio especially as he faces trial in January on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges. Then Channel 12 reported another possible strategy: to form a new right-wing coalition, leaving Gantz’s party out of the loop — and securing a full term as the sole prime minister. Under the current coalition deal, Netanyahu and Gantz have agreed to a rotating term as prime minister for each of them (however, most Israelis doubt that Bibi will ever turn over power).
Netanyahu’s office has denied all of the above reports.
Nevertheless, it all comes down to a technicality. The government automatically dissolves if the state budget is not passed by Aug. 25. At issue is whether to pass a one- or two-year budget.
Bibi wants to pass a one-year budget due to the “uncertainly” caused by the pandemic, while Gantz, who is scheduled to take over as prime minister in November 2021, prefers the security of a two-year budget — and taking over the premier’s position.
The coalition agreement stipulates a two-year agreement and Gantz has called on Netanyahu to stick to this and pass a budget to cover through the end of 2021.
“The citizens of Israel deserve a safety net for the year ahead. This requires a state budget, a responsible budget with long-term stability. No one should get up in the morning and ask what his fate will be,” Gantz said, perhaps referring to himself as well.
Netanyahu is still pushing through his one-year version.
“Israel does not need elections, it needs a budget, as fast as possible,” he said. “All the economists say this.”