Likud Accepts Putting Off Election, Plays for Time to Ensure ultra-Orthodox Support

Netanyahu will hand Gantz a superficial victory to make sure the ultra-Orthodox get the school funding they need to back him when the contest comes

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Lawmaker Moshe Gafni, from United Torah Judaism, speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Knesset, Jerusalem, August 1, 2018.
Lawmaker Moshe Gafni, from United Torah Judaism, speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Knesset, Jerusalem, August 1, 2018.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Likud wants to postpone the final date for passing the state budget, effectively putting off another election and handing a victory of sorts to Kahol Lavan. In the meanwhile, it allows them to arrange funding for religious schools, an issue of utmost interest for ultra-Orthodox parties, whose support they need.

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On Thursday, the presumptive director general of the office of Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, Hod Betzer, met with Yaakov Atrakchi, representing Likud. The two discussed the outlines of an agreement for a two-year budget and a postponement of the last date for passing it, although the meeting ended without any public commitment by Likud.

On the surface, this is a victory for Kahol Lavan, but it suits Likud’s interests because Netanyahu sees the budget issue as a window of opportunity for an election, which would allow him to renege on transferring the premiership to Benny Gantz. 

Netanyahu is facing internal opposition from the ultra-Orthodox parties because the funding for yeshivas in 2020 has run out and if a new budget is not passed, religiou schools will run out of money.

According to the rotation agreement between the two parties, Gantz is set become prime minister 18 months after the last election.

The coalition agreement stipulates that the government must pass a two-year budget by August 25; if that does not happen, the government must dissolve itself, with the side that blocked the budget relinquishing the position of prime minister to the other side until a new election is held. Likud, is demanding that the budget be for one year only rather than for two, and both parties are currently advancing the possibility of a 100-day extension.

Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni, a lawmaker from the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox alliance United Torah Judaism, wants a law to be passed in coordination with Likud that would allocate 4.2 billion shekels ($1.2 billion) of urgent funding in order to open the school year. This would include 400 million shekels (around $118 million) for yeshivas. Likud may ask that the cabinet be able to decide on funding of other grants with the approval of the Knesset’s Finance Committee. If these laws are passed, Likud will be able to go to an election with the coalition intact.

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