Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing for early elections and and is planning his trip to the United Arab Emirates on December 23 – the same day the 2020 state budget expires and the Knesset is expected to dissolve.
Netanyahu planned to visit the UAE last week, following the normalization agreement signed between the two countries. While the prime minister plans to use it to send the message that he was leading a "historic journey" for Israel while his rival Gantz is caught up in "petty politics."
A senior official at Netanyahu's office claims his trip was delayed only due to security reasons, per the Shin Bet's request. In response to a request for comment, the Shin Bet said that it does not respond to security matters.
Israel has lacked an approved budget since the beginning of the year, which is the central disagreement between Gantz's Kahol Lavan and Netanyahu's Likud parties.
Kahol Lavan is backing a biannual budget for 2020 and 2021, while Likud is insisting on an annual budget for 2020. The Knesset will be automatically dissolved if lawmakers fail to pass the budget by December 23, sending Israel to its fourth election in two years.
Earlier on Wednesday, a Knesset committee approved a bill to dissolve parliament, which would now go to a Knesset vote slated for Monday. The bill, which sets March 16, 2021 as the suggested date to hold the election for the 24th Knesset, has to pass two more Knesset votes after that before December 23, unless a budget is passed until then.
Ten House Committee members backed the vote to approve the draft bill, which passed a preliminary Knesset vote last Wednesday. Seven members opposed it, all of them from coalition parties Likud, Shas and United Torah Judaism.
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61 lawmakers voted in favor of the draft bill in last week's preliminary vote, and 54 against. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that his Likud party will vote against the bill, which was put forth by the opposition. Benny Gantz, hoping to spur Netanyahu to reach a compromise on the 2021 state budget, voted in favor.
The coalition agreement between the two leaders was formed at the start of the coronavirus crisis after a prolonged political deadlock. Opposition parties claim the current coalition is unstable and paralyzed in its ability to serve voters. They also say Netanyahu does not intend to keep his end of the deal in letting Gantz take over the premiership in one year's time.