Gantz Appeals for Normalization in Israel

Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As the Knesset was set to approve normalization with Bahrain on Tuesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz made a plea for normalization within Israel by belated passage of a state budget.

“The citizens of Israel are looking at us,” Gantz told the plenum. “They are looking for a government that will make peace at home, a functioning government that will serve them during the most difficult crisis we’ve faced in decades.”

Addressing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏, he said: “You know very well that I extended my hand to you despite many difficulties. I did this to fight the coronavirus and prevent the dangers of a civil war. I joined as a partner [in the government] for the sake of the lives, health and livelihoods of Israelis — not as an accomplice in an economic and social crime against them.

“You and I know well that the treasury has a nearly completed budget ready for 2021 and I won’t allow you to block it,” added Gantz. “It’s in your hands whether to prevent an economic and social disaster and to do the right thing for the citizens of Israel.”

As matters stand, if a budget is not passed by late December, Israel will have to hold new elections.

Netanyahu has been accused of stalling on the budget in order to bring on elections, which he believes will favor him politically, which he has denied.

Netanyahu and Gantz were scheduled to hold a long awaited meeting to see if they could resolve their differences on the budget, which ostensibly centers on whether it should be a two-year framework.

Earlier in the day, the pro-Netanyahu newspaper Yisrael Hayom said that the prime minister does not intend to compromise on the budget. The report was headlined “Campaign 2021 has begun.”

Gantz has reportedly been meeting with right-wing Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett about joining forces to dissolve the Knesset and go to elections.

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid taunted his erstwhile partner Gantz in a tweet: “Okay Gantz, I believe you that Netanyahu is carrying out an ‘economic crime against the citizens of Israel’ but are you going to do something about it or fold as is usual for you?” he tweeted.

Members of Gantz’s Blue and White have also reportedly been in contact with Lapid in order to coordinate possible pre-election.

The Knesset last passed a state budget in March 2018, which was in effect until the end of 2019. The lack of a comprehensive budget law in 2020 has left many ministries struggling with unexpected budget shortfalls and made it difficult to plan ahead. Many organizations, including those that ran the largest programs for at-risk youth in the country, were forced to close for part of the year as government funding dried up. Some treasury officials have warned that Israel’s credit rating with international lending agencies could be hurt if the situation continues.