Gantz Warns Netanyahu Over 2021 State Budget: 'Don't Harm the Citizens of Israel'

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Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and PM Netanyahu at the knesset in Jerusalem, July 2020.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and PM Netanyahu at the knesset in Jerusalem, July 2020. Credit: Tal Shahar / Yediot Ahronot / PO

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prepare a state budget for 2021, accusing the premier of violating agreements between them and urging him not to "harm the citizens of Israel."

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In August, the Knesset passed legislation that allowed the government to postpone approving the state budget for next year after disagreements between Netanyahu's Likud and Gantz's Kahol Lavan nearly drove the country to a fourth election in less than two years.

The main point of contention preventing the passing of a budget is the demand by Gantz to pass a two-year budget as outlined in the coalition agreement with Likud. In contrast, Netanyahu is determined to pass a one-year budget, which would leave him the option of calling an election next June if the next budget, for 2021, isn’t passed in the spring, before Gantz is supposed to take over as prime minister according to the coalition agreement.

In such a situation, according to the agreement, Netanyahu would remain as prime minister in a caretaker government.

"Sadly, a great valley stands between us and the pledge of unity that we've signed," Gantz wrote in a letter to Netanyahu. "The government's conduct does not allow for the existence of good governance for the citizens of Israel."

Gantz demanded of Netanyahu to "instruct the Finance Ministry to draft a proposal for an economic plan and a state budget which will be brought before the government and Knesset for approval no later than December."

According to Gantz, "any act to undermine the passing of the budget can mean only one thing: Putting personal considerations above the wellbeing of Israelis."

The letter also criticized the lack of routine government meetings, as well as the freeze in appointments of senior positions in public service, such as police commissioner and state prosecutor, which Gantz said have been delayed "without justification, and hurt the performance of systems that are essential to handling the coronavirus crisis."

Netanyahu's Likud party responded by accusing Gantz of attempting to draw focus from his party's internal issues. "We'd be happy if Gantz resolved his own issues, but not by starting a scuffle that will lead Israel to an election."

Likud claimed that Kahol Lavan was hiding from the public the fact that the two parties signed and agreement and passed a law to approve the 2020 budget in December, whilst concurrently working on the 2021 budget. It also blamed Kahol Lavan of stalling senior appointments by refusing to hold the joint comittee on the subject with Likud.

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