Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz instructed their Likud and Blue and White parties, respectively, to vote for a bill postponing the budget deadline for 120 days, thereby averting elections, at least for the time being.
The vote came on Monday night, less than three hours before a midnight deadline would trigger elections automatically if the government failed to pass a budget. The measure passed into law with 67 for, 37 against.
In a “fiery speech,” Gantz declared ahead of the vote that “if we go to elections, blood will spill in the streets.”
“Social tensions in the country could deteriorate and, G-d forbid, if we get to another elections, more blood will be shed in the streets here. Whoever threatens elections, does not threaten me but the Israeli public. Therefore, I will not let anyone threaten the citizens of Israel.”
Gantz could not resist another jab at Netanyahu. “I will never allow anyone to erode our democracy,” he said, or appoint “puppets” to public service, alluding to a parallel dispute over appointments, in particular those of state prosecutor and attorney general, which he accuses Netanyahu of seeking to manipulate.
The Derech Eretz party, whose MK Tzvi Hauser had proposed the budget extension tweeted on Monday night: “We prevented elections. Again.” For Hauser especially it was worth tweeting about, since his two-man party was expected to be wiped out in the next elections, according to the polls.
Speaking for the 37 MKs who lost the vote, opposition leader Yair Lapid said the “biggest losers tonight are the citizens of Israel, who have been left with no budget, no plan to deal with unemployment by their disconnected government that does not stop fighting.”
In a meeting of his Yesh Atid-Telem faction on Monday, Lapid said: “For 100 days Netanyahu failed. He failed in his management of the economy, failed in his management of the government and so today he’s getting a prize – another 120 days of failure. Another 120 days without a budget.”
Earlier in the day, nothing was certain, as an agreement between the parties worked out Sunday night appeared to unravel, if it was indeed raveled in the first place.
Besides the budget, a measure regarding the appointments of senior officials was dividing the Likud and Blue and White, according to media reports. Likud claimed that Blue and White was refusing to create a panel on political appointments with an equal number of lawmakers from both parties.
The sides had resumed their accusations against each other.
“Blue and White is running away from [Derech Eretz MK] Hauser’s compromise, which they agreed to, and are dragging the country to elections, with false claims and by creating difficulties at the last minute,” said a Likud party statement.
“He [Netanyahu] has a few hours left to show whether he will keep his promise to the public to maintain the unity government that will address the coronavirus and [Israel’s] security threats, or blow up the talks for his personal and legal considerations,” the Blue and White said.
The next budget deadline will roll around on December 23, and could well be the setting for yet another coalition crisis. If some other crisis doesn’t come first. In the meantime, Israelis have a respite from the endless Netanyahu-Gantz saga.