Netanyahu, Gantz Advance Budget Delay Bill, but Threat of Election Still Looms

Few believe bill will be enshrined into law, but all sides want to show they made an effort to diffuse crisis ■ Knesset strikes down opposition bill to prevent Netanyahu from forming gov't

Chaim Levinson
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Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, May 31, 2020.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, May 31, 2020. Credit: Emil Salman
Chaim Levinson

A bill delaying the deadline to pass the state budget passed a preliminary vote in the Knesset Wednesday with the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and Defense Minister Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan.

The bill passed with 56 votes in favor, 41 against and one abstained. The remaining 22 lawmakers did not present for the vote.

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The bill must still pass three more readings in order to become law. The 100-day extension, proposed by lawmaker Zvi Hauser, would delay the August 25 deadline until mid-December. If a budget is not approved by the deadline, the Knesset will dissolve and Israel will head to a fourth election in under two years.

Likud and Kahol Lavan said on Sunday that they would back the bill. However, a Likud source later said the party would vote in favor in a preliminary vote and a first vote, but wouldn't commit to backing the bill in the final two votes before it becomes law.

Meanwhile, Kahol Lavan announced Tuesday that they would not take part in Wednesday's preliminary vote on a bill that would ban a criminal defendant from forming a government.

The bill, brought forward by Kahol Lavan's former political allies Yesh Atid on Wednesday, was aimed at preventing Netanyahu from running for office in the next election. It fell with 37 votes in favor and 53 against. The remaining 30 lawmakers did not present for the vote.

Netanyahu currently stands trial for suspected bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Gantz called on Netanyahu on Monday to approve a bill within 24 hours delaying the deadline for the state budget, as a dispute between the coalition partners and mutual accusations of dragging the country to yet another election continued. 

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

If a budget is not approved by August 24, 100 days after the current government took office, the Knesset will dissolve and Israel will head to another election.

In contrast, Netanyahu is determined to pass a one-year budget, which would leave him the option of calling an election next June if the next budget, for 2021, isn’t passed in the spring, before Gantz is supposed to take over as prime minister according to the coalition agreement. In such a situation, according to the agreement, Netanyahu would remain as prime minister in a caretaker government.

Currently, all contact has been broken off between Likud and Kahol Lavan, and ultra-Orthodox mediators have expressed despair over the matter. Kahol Lavan are convinced that Netanyahu has lost public support, which will lead him to compromise on passing a partial two-year budget. This scenario will prevent election without granting Gantz the premiership.

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