Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz is set to meet Likud Finance Minister Yisrael Katz on Sunday to discuss the 2020-2021 state budget that has divided their coalition, after the latter approached him in a bid to derail Israel’s fourth election in two years.
If the state budget is not approved by December 23, the Knesset will be dissolved automatically, triggering elections. Likud is trying to persuade their junior coalition partner to pass a one-year budget, instead of a two-year budget, which will give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an option to call an election further down the line in March 2021.
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The meeting between them comes after lawmakers voted to dissolve the Knesset by a margin of 61-54 in a preliminary vote Wednesday, after Netanyahu refused to approve a state budget, allegedly in order to circumvent the agreement for Gantz to take over the premiership in one year's time.
The bill will be prepared for first reading in the Knesset committee, which is controlled by Gantz's Kahol Lavan, and the first discussion is expected to take place this coming Monday.
The Likud party attacked Kahol Lavan and the opposition for voting in favor of dissolution and an "unnecessary election," according to coalition whip Miki Zohar. "The only common denominator between opposition parties and Kahol Lavan is their aspiration to hurt Netanyahu's tenure," Zohar said, adding that the anti-Netanyahu camp has "no achievements and no ideology."
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Netanyahu held a press conference Wednesday night in which he called on Gantz “to stop the free-fall into elections” while accusing him of "being dragged down" by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, the respective leaders of the Yesh Atid-Telem and Yamina opposition parties "because they do not care, because they have no responsibility.”
After Kahol Lavan voted in favor of dissolving the Knesset, opposition leader Lapid said on Thursday he wasn't ruling out reuniting with Gantz's party – from which his Yesh Atid faction split after Israel's latest election – but demanded to stay on as leader of the potential joint slate.
“I really don’t want (to do this) alone, I’ll gladly take any possible link-up,” Lapid told Army Radio.