'Stop the Free-fall to Elections': Netanyahu Blasts Gantz for Backing Vote to Dissolve Knesset

Gantz responds by blaming PM of 'economic attack' on Israel by refusing to pass two-year budget, says 'time for maneuvers is over'

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Netanyahu listens during a joint statement with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem, November 19, 2020
Netanyahu listens during a joint statement with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem, November 19, 2020Credit: Maya Alleruzzo / AP

Prime Minister Netanyahu called on Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz Wednesday evening “to stop the free-fall into elections,” in the wake of the Knesset’s passing a bill to dissolve itself in a preliminary vote Wednesday afternoon with Gantz's support.

Sixty-one lawmakers voted in favor, and 54 voted against. The proposal will now go to the Legislative Committee for discussion.

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Netanyahu said that "the country must not be dragged into election politics when it is necessary to focus on the battle against the coronavirus. It is not too late."

The prime minister also also said that “Gantz is unfortunately being dragged down" by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, the respective leaders of the Yesh Atid-Telem and Yamina opposition parties "because they do not care, because they have no responsibility.”

When asked by reporters about his violation of the rotation agreement with Gantz, Netanyahu blamed Gantz's Kahol Lavan party of breaching it "from day one," and gave as an example the defense minister's decision to form a commission of inquiry to probe the so-called submarine affair that has plagued the premier.

Gantz's response was quick to follow. In a recorded video statement released while Netanyahu was taking questions from the press, the defense minister said that "the time for maneuvers is over. Precisely because of the great challenges we have faced, the economic attack you are carrying out on the citizens of Israel while an economic, medical and social pandemic rages, shows that you have lost it.” 

Referring to Netanyahu’s trial for charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Gantz said: “We all know the truth, so do you - if there was no trial – there would be a budget. If there was no trial –there would be a functioning government. If there was no trial – there would be unity.”

In response to Netanyahu’s attack, Yamina said: “Once again, Likud is engaged in politics, spreading hatred among the people and personal interests at the expense of the citizens of Israel. Only the right, led by Naftali Bennett, will take control over the coronavirus, rehabilitate the economy and unite the people.”

The coalition agreement signed by the two parties dictated that a two-year budget, as opposed to a one-year budget, be passed by the government, following its formation in May. While Kahol Lavan has acted in furtherance of passing a two-year budget, Likud has refused to do so. 

If the 2020 budget is not passed by December 23, the Knesset will be disbanded automatically, and Israel will enter another round of elections.

Likud would like to move quickly to pass the 2020 budget by December 23, but postpone the 2021 budget vote to March. Gantz, however, wants both budgets passed within the next month, and plans to demand an accelerated timetable.

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