Agreement to Salvage Coalition Coming Apart

Israel’s Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Chaos competed with uncertainty in Israeli politics on Monday evening, as prospects for an agreement to defer passage of the state budget and thereby put off elections seemed to dissolve.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz told his party he thinks elections will be called on Tuesday, according to the Walla news site.

“I gave Netanyahu my final offer and he’s supposed to get back to me,” Gantz was quoted as saying. “I think he’ll say no and the Knesset will be dissolved tomorrow.”

“If I hear tonight that something can be done on this matter, I will update you. If not, the Knesset will turn into a pumpkin tomorrow night,” referring to the midnight deadline for the state budget that, if not passed, will automatically trigger dissolving the Knesset and going to elections.

Gantz reportedly sent a five-demand ultimatum to the prime minister: passing a 2020-2021 budget; approving all the senior appointments that have been held up; closing all loopholes that would allow Netanyahu to avoid handing over power to Gantz as part of their rotation agreement; keeping Blue and White’s Avi Nissenkorn as justice minister; and approving the Knesset rules of procedure.

If Netanyahu accepts, says Gantz, he’ll support a bill to delay the budget deadline for a few more days, following a compromise that had been worked out between the two parties earlier.

Netanyahu wasn’t accepting.

“We worked very hard to avoid elections, unnecessary elections. We reached agreements with Blue and White. I thought they were promising, they were good agreements that could have averted these elections. Unfortunately, because of internal pressure inside the party, Benny Gantz decided to renege on [the agreement] and this is dragging the country to unnecessary elections at the height of the coronavirus crisis.”

“We cannot let the left trample our democracy,” he said, referring to Nissenkorn, who has been on the opposite side of Netanyahu’s efforts to gain control of appointments to senior law enforcement posts.

“It really saddens me. Because instead of enabling a stable government that works for its citizens, and really works in harmony, they are insisting on upholding a ‘government within a government,’” he said.

“We don’t want elections. That’s why we were willing to vote in the Knesset to avoid it. But if elections are imposed upon us, we will win,” he said.

Meanwhile, at least five of Blue and White’s 15 MKs are considering leaving the party if new elections are called, the Kan public broadcaster claimed on Monday night.

One of the MKs said he’ll quit the party the polls predict it will only win 4-5 seats.

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