Defense Minister Benny Gantz has said in private talks that he will back dissolving the Knesset, prompting an election, if the ongoing budget crisis is not resolved by the end of October, in yet another escalation in an ongoing coalition crisis, risking thrusting Israel to a fourth election cycle within two years.
“We are certainly considering it, because the situation has become intolerable,” Gantz said regarding the possibility of his Kahol Lavan party supporting an opposition bill to dissolve the legislative body and prompting the country’s fourth election in two years. “In two weeks we’ll know if there’s a budget, or if we’re going to an election and there will be no government.”
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The defense minister, who also holds the title of alternate prime minister and is supposed to take over as prime minister after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next year, according to their coalition agreement, further said that he was in contact with the leaders of other parties about the issue and that he would not rule out supporting anyone for the role of prime minister – with the exception of Netanyahu. “The people will decide,” he said. “[If] they want [Yamina Chairman Naftali] Bennett, let it be Bennett. I am the best partner Netanyahu could have, but if he keeps acting [like that], let him bear the responsibility.”
Regarding public demands that he establish in his capacity as defense minister a committee to probe the government’s purchase of German-produced naval vessels, Gantz said he had considered the matter weeks earlier, but that legally, such a committee could only investigate soldiers or reservists on active duty – meaning Netanyahu, his lawyer, and others involved in the affair could not be called.
Amid the political deadlock that resulted from the three elections since April of 2019, the government never passed a budget for 2020. In August, the Knesset passed legislation that postponed the deadline for passing a budget until December 23. If the deadline expires without a budget, an election will be called automatically.
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The main point of contention preventing the passing of a budget is the demand by Gantz to pass a two-year budget, for the remainder of 2020 and for 2021, as outlined in the coalition agreement with Likud. In contrast, Netanyahu is determined to pass a one-year budget, just for the remainder of 2020, which would leave him the option of calling an election next June if budget for 2021 isn’t passed by the spring, before Gantz is supposed to take over as prime minister.