Defense Minister Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party said Sunday that it has agreed to postpone the Tuesday deadline to pass Israel's 2020 state budget by one week, in a move that could give it more time to negotiate a deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud to avoid what would be a fourth election cycle in two years.
According to the statement, legislation will be advanced Monday to move the 2020 budget deadline to December 31, and the 2021 budget to January 5. "According to the bill, if these budgets are not passed by the set dates, the Knesset will be dissolved and elections will be held on March 23," the statement says.
Likud issued a statement in response to the effect that anyone who believes the party will agree to revert to a "government within a government" is "delusional." Not long thereafter, from within Kahol Lavan came the message: Anyone who believes that Kahol Lavan will agree to allow one indicted of crimes to trample the appointment of judges and law enforcement agents is "delusional." In effect, both stating that nothing has been agreed.
Kahol Lavan said that it would begin the process, and at the same time "Will make every effort to bring about a functioning government, with a budget that millions of Israelis are in need of at the moment, nominations and safeguards for the rule of law and a lack of influence by the prime minister and his family."
If the bill is not passed by Tuesday, the Knesset will automatically dissolve, and Israelis will return to the polls.
Earlier Sunday, Haaretz reported that Gantz agreed to curb Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn's powers in a bid to stave off an election. In return, Gantz hopes to cement the rotation agreement for the premiership with Netanyahu is upheld. Kahol Lavan did not mention this agreement in their statement.
According to the deal, Nissenkorn, a lawmaker from Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party, would lose his powers as Justice Minister in exchange for revoking the law stating that the Knesset would automatically dissolve if a 2020 state budget is not passed by the December 23 deadline.
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Arye Dery, Shas chairman and cabinet member, said on Sunday "I have a reason to assume the Knesset won't dissolve this week, but December 23 is still that date we're looking at."
On Sunday evening, some 300 anti-government activists protested near Gantz’s home in the central city of Rosh Ha’ayin, accusing him of surrendering to Netanyahu’s wishes and “destroying what is left of Israel’s democracy.”
A coalition of protest groups urged Gantz and lawmakers from his party to refuse any compromise with the prime minister.
Clashes erupted between policemen and demonstrators, after dozens of protesters staged a sit-in at the entrance of the street where Gantz lives. Police were deployed in force to disperse the demonstrators.
Seven activists tied themselves between two poles near Gantz’s home, and declared that they planned to stay there for the ensuing 24 hours. Asher Ben David, one of the activists, told Haaretz, “The next 24 hours are the ‘money time.’ Israel before everything, or Benny Gantz before everything.”
He added that Gantz had signed an agreement that everyone told him was impossible. “You don’t sign an agreement a second time with someone who violated it the first time. It’s inconceivable that someone accused of crimes will appoint the police commissioner. This is intolerable.”
Bar Peleg contributed to this report.