Netanyahu, Gantz Back Bill to Delay Budget Deadline, Potentially Staving Off Election

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement at the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel with the  Alternate PM and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, July 27 2020.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement at the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel with the Alternate PM and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, July 27 2020.Credit: POOL/Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have both agreed to a proposal to push forward the August 25 deadline to pass Israel’s budget, in a move that could potentially stave off a fourth election in under two years.

Progress toward approving a budget has ground to a halt amid political squabbling between Netanyahu and Gantz. If a budget is not approved by August 25, the Knesset will dissolve and Israel will head to an election.

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The proposal by ministers Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel would push the deadline forward by 100 days, giving the government until mid December to come to an agreement.

Kahol Lavan MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser are seen in the Knesset, April 29, 2020.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

In a statement, the two ministers said Sunday they had “asked for Likud’s support to advance a bill that would delay the state budget… This step will allow Likud and Kahol Lavan the time, as the law is being passed, to arrive at an all-encompassing solution for the disagreements between them so the government can run smoothly and avoid another election."

The bill will be brought to a preliminary vote by the Knesset on Wednesday. Gantz's party and ultra-Orthodox Shas party announced they would vote in favor.

A Likud source said the party would vote in favor on Wednesday, but for now wouldn't commit to backing the bill the following three votes it must pass before becoming law.

Netanyahu acquiesced to our request, and we welcome all progress on the path to a solution for this crisis,” said the ministers, who ran with Gantz's Kahol Lavan in Israel's latest election but split to form their Derech Eretz faction.

By law, a government that takes office during a year when no budget has been passed must push through its own budget within 100 days, or the government falls. The current government was sworn in on May 17, so the 100 days end in late August.

The main dispute blocking the passing of a 2020 budget is the demand by Gantz, the head of the Kahol Lavan party, to pass a two-year document, as stipulated in his party’s coalition agreement with Netanyahu’s Likud.

Netanyahu, however, is keen to pass a 2020 budget only, after which work could begin on a framework for 2021.

A weekly cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday morning was called off late Saturday, with Likud and Kahol Lavan trading accusations of extending the political deadlock.

Gantz said Saturday that he has no intention of compromising over the two-year budget that was agreed on.

“You need a budget for a whole year, not for the holidays or for a week,” Gantz said in an interview with Channel 12’s “Meet the Press,” referring to the fall Jewish holidays.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: AFP

“We insist on this. The prime minister may want an election, Lapid may want it, but I don’t. I won’t yield,” he added, referring to opposition leader and former political partner Yair Lapid.

On Sunday, his Kahol Lavan party said it would "do everything it can to prevent a horrible election, in the midst of one of the most severe crises this country has known."

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