Gantz: If Government Doesn’t Pass Budget, I’ll Weigh Options

YERUSHALAYIM -
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seen during a vote at the Knesset, August 24. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz warned on Motzoei Shabbos that should the dysfunction in the government continue and a state budget for 2021 fail to materialize in the coming weeks, he would weigh his options.

“The next few weeks will signal to me if there is an intention [on the government’s part] to work for the citizens,” Ganz told Channel 12. “If this does not happen… if the government does not function, I will have no choice but to think of the coming steps.”

Blue and White joined the government so it could “function in an emergency situation,” Gantz said in reference to his surprise decision in April to join a coalition led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The decision followed three rounds of national elections in which no clear winner emerged.

“What we are finding is that the government is not functioning. We are fighting from within and will continue to fight for the government to function,” Gantz said, adding that the priorities of the country should supersede those of Netanyahu or the Likud. Gantz said he wants to see a government that functions as a coalition made up of its different parties, that prepares a state budget, and convenes its ministerial committee on legislative matters. “If not — I will weigh all alternatives,” he said.

Gantz did not elaborate on what options lay before him but indicated that new elections, though undesirable, could be an option.

Gantz has gone head-to-head with Netanyahu in recent months over the budget. Israel has limped through 2020 with a state budget, and the coalition agreement provided for a two-year 2020-21 budget to be passed in the summer. The initial budget deadline had been in August, with a failure to pass it by then requiring the Knesset to dissolve. But the Likud and Blue and White agreed to a last-minute compromise that gave the parties 100 more days. That expires in November.

Meanwhile, Netanayhu said that Israel’s budget for 2021 will likely be passed in February.

In the wake of three elections held since April 2019, Israel is still using a version of the 2019 budget, although MKs have approved more than NIS 140 billion ($42 billion) in state aid to help businesses and households hurt by government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions.

“The government will present the 2020 budget soon,” Netanyahu said at a news conference on Motzoei Shabbos. “This will get us through this year and will give us breathing space to pass the 2021 budget. From what I understand from the finance minister, this should take us until February [to complete],” Netanyahu said.

Finance Minister Yisrael Katz also said the 2021 budget would be ratified by the Knesset in February. He added that the 2020 budget, which must be approved by the end of December, would be 411 billion shekels.

Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron has urged Netanyahu’s Cabinet to pass the 2021 budget as soon as possible to help the economy recover.