Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner Benny Gantz each accused the other on Thursday of leading the country to yet another election, a day after Haaretz quoted political sources as saying Netanyahu had decided to call a general election to be held in November.
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The sources told Haaretz that Netanyahu planned not to pass the budget for 2020 and triggering an election on November 18.
As a press conference on Thursday, Netanyahu he "isn't aiming for an election," and that reports to the contrary were "absurd." The prime minister put the blame on Gantz's Kahol Lavan party for a delay in budget talks, which could lead to another election cycle – which would be Israel's fourth since April of 2019.
"A budget can be passed in a minute," Netanyahu said. "We should pass a budget now. The only reason we should go to election is if a budget isn't passed. We have until August 24. The reason we're not passing a budget is that Kahol Lavan isn't ready. They're tying it to politics."
Gantz's party said in a statement: "The prime minister should stop dragging us to election and do two things – handle the coronavirus crisis with a long-term budget and stick to the deal he signed two months ago," which specified the terms of the unity government. Gantz, according to that agreement, would become prime minister in late 2021.
Meanwhile, Derech Eretz, which ran with Gantz's Kahol Lavan in the March 2 election, is expected to file on Monday a bill that would delay the deadline to approve the budget, in a bid to avoid another election round should talks not conclude by August 25. The proposal would allow Likud and Kahol Lavan to continue talks until November 25.
A source in the party, made up of Minister Yoaz Hendel and lawmaker Zvi Hauser, said that "it's unacceptable for Israel to face in this coming winter the coronavirus, the flu and an election all at once. We have to give both parties time to get their act together. It would be insane to dissolve the Knesset now, and would crash public trust in the system."
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Earlier on Thursday, election polls released by Channel 12 and Channel 13 showed a drop in support for Netanyahu's Likud. A majority of respondents in both polls also said they were dissatisfied with the government's handling of the economic crisis, but say they wouldn't want Israel to go to another election round at this point.