'It's Not Working': Gantz's Party Escalates Rhetoric on Partnership With Netanyahu

FM Gabi Ashkenazi sets November ultimatum amid clashes over 2021 budget ■ Gantz threatens to seek 'another path' if government fails to pass budget

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Gabi Ashkenazi is seen at in the Knesset, October 15, 2020.
Gabi Ashkenazi is seen at in the Knesset, October 15, 2020.Credit: Alex Kolomoisky

Prominent Kahol Lavan ministers warned their coalition partners in Likud on Monday that if the 2021 state budget is not passed and major appointments are not made, Israelis will have no choice but to return to the polls.

The government is "not working," Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi of Kahol Lavan said on Monday, and called for new elections if the situation doesn't change by November.

“It is not just the budget, it’s appointments, it’s laws, it’s the cabinet meetings – we came for a unity government to be partners, we didn’t come to rescue Netanyahu,” Ashkenazi said in an interview with the Ynet news website. “If it doesn’t change by the end of the month, we simply need to go back to the voters. Period.”

Ashkenazi said Kahol Lavan entered the government to deal with the public's concerns and provide solutions, but that the public is now fed up with the fighting.

Passing the budget is “just a matter of will, no one really thinks that in this economic crisis we don’t need a budget here, and no thinks that is for professional reasons,” he added. “Someone wants the possibility to get themselves off the hook and to avoid honoring agreements. We will not let that happen.”

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn at a lawyers' conference in Herzliyah, September 3, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani

When asked who it is that doesn’t want to keep agreements, Ashkenazi said: “I have said in the most explicit way that Netanyahu is not keeping his word on our partnership... it is impossible to have a unity government without partnership, it is impossible to run this government on political considerations.” However, Ashkenazi added that there is still a chance to make arrangements – but it requires a complete U-turn on Netanyahu’s part.

Kahol Lavan chairman and Defense Minister Benny Gantz later said Likud should put the state’s interests before Netanyahu's, threatening to seek “another path” if the government is unable to pass the 2021 state budget.

"I am not willing to have a government that does not participate, that does not function," Gantz said during a party faction meeting, "and I am not willing to be held hostage by anyone's political predicament.”

“My priorities are those of the State of Israel, they are not my personal priorities,”Gantz said.

Talking about the passing the 2021 budget, Gantz said: “If we don't see it happening, we'll examine another way to go about it. It cannot go on like this.”

Earlier on Monday, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, also from Kahol Lavan, said the party would not be part of the government if a two-year budget is not decided on soon, and if a new state prosecutor and police commissioner are not appointed. “If we see these issues are not progressing, including the budget, we will not be able to be part of a nonfunctioning government.”

In an interview with Kan Reshet Bet radio, Nissenkorn said his party must see things change in the next few weeks, and the country must have a budget for 2021.

On Saturday, Gantz also demanded the 2021 budget as soon as possible – and hinted that otherwise he would act to form an alternative government. “We joined the government so it would function in a time of emergency, and we have found that it isn’t functioning,” Gantz told Channel 12 News.

As for the budget: “Either the government functions in all its components and the prime minister shows pragmatism, or we will have to rethink our path. I will not agree in any way to participate in such a government. I will examine every alternative.” Gantz made it clear that calling early elections would be harmful for the country, and hinted that an alternative coalition government exists: “There is a different majority in the Knesset.”

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