Gantz, Seeking Leverage Over Netanyahu, Mulls Voting With Opposition to Dissolve Knesset

Kahol Lavan understands the government is living on borrowed time, and both major coalition partners jockey for position ahead of next election

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Netanyahu and Gantz in June 2020.
Netanyahu and Gantz in June 2020.Credit: Ariel Schalit/AFP
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz is likely to vote on Wednesday for a bill to dissolve the Israeli parliament, in the hope that this will spur Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach a compromise on a state budget.

Kahol Lavan members are urging their party leader to vote with the opposition on this motion, which would require several additional votes before actually ending the Knesset's term and lead to a new election. If the motion is struck down, lawmakers will have to wait six months before tabling a similar one.

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Netanyahu's and Gantz's parties have been exchanging verbal blows in the Knesset. Netanyahu on Monday accused Kahol Lavan of dragging him into an election and Kahol Lavan responded that it would no longer buy what it called Netanyahu’s lies.

The debate is tactical. Neither of them believes this government will last long, but some ministers want to complete certain tasks before it is dissolved.

Gantz is said to be wondering whether the vote on Wednesday will be a PR disaster and serve Netanyahu’s narrative that Kahol Lavan is trying to dissolve the Knesset.

But some Kahol Lavan legislators say no one is taking them seriously and if they don’t vote for dissolution, they will appear ludicrous. At the moment, Gantz seems poised to vote for it, but the issue may be spun many more ways before Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, Gantz is slowly losing the little he has left of his Knesset faction. On Monday, Kahol Lavan legislators held a stormy meeting, at which lawmakers Miki Haimovich and Asaf Zamir harshly criticized Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich for visiting a tent where proponents of legalizing West Bank outposts are holding a vigil.

Gantz said Kahol Lavan’s policy opposes illegal outposts, but the strident tones at the meeting and the personal assault on Yankelevich, who is close to Gantz, signaled that Haimovich and Zamir do not intend to continue as part of the coalition. If the situation persists, it will be difficult to see Haimovich, Zamir and their colleague Ram Shefa voting according to coalition discipline.

On the other side of the political map, in Likud, they are trying to decide what to do if Gantz does vote in favor of dissolution. One view, led by Interior Minister Arye Dery, chairman of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party Shas, says that the vote will signal the end of the coalition agreements.

But from Netanyahu’s point of view this would be excellent. Kahol Lavan is providing him with the ammunition to present himself as statesmanlike, a leader who opposes unpopular elections, while Kahol Lavan is mired in intrigues. And so at the moment he seems in no hurry to cross the line, but rather, to sting and move on.

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