Gantz: 'Election Isn't the Right Thing, but It's Much Better Than a Paralyzed Government'

Defense minister says 'It’s either budget immediately or election' ■ Former ally Ya'alon considers ending partnership with Lapid, says ex-military chief Eisenkot would join him if an election is called

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Israeli Defense Minister and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz arrives at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in Jerusalem on December 2, 2020.
Israeli Defense Minister and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz arrives at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in Jerusalem on December 2, 2020.Credit: ALEX KOLOMIENSKY - AFP

Defense Minister Benny Gantz defended his decision to side with dissolving the Israeli parliament during a preliminary vote on Wednesday, saying that Israel needed to get out of its current political deadlock.

"An election is not the right thing for the country, but it’s much better than a paralyzed government, and having politics dictate the management of one of the most severe health and economic crises we’ve ever known," Gantz said on Friday.

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The Kahol Lavan chairman said in a video statement his decision to vote with the opposition came after it became apparent that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not pass the 2020-2021 state budget. The issue has created a major rift within Israel's inherently fragile governing coalition. 

Addressing his upcoming meeting with Likud Finance Minister Yisrael Katz to discuss the budget, Gantz said: “It’s either a budget immediately or an election,” intimating that his parliamentary ballot had been cast in order to put pressure on his coalition partners, 

Meanwhile, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who ran with Gantz's Kahol Lavan and Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid factions in Israel's last election, said on Twitter he was “committed to join any political effort that would see the end of Netanyahu’s rule.”

However, he also told Channel 12 News that he might break away from his alliance with Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid faction, and "hopefully" join forces with former military chief Gadi Eisenkot, who has been rumored to be considering going into politics.

In an excerpt from his interview published on Friday, Ya'alon said "it was clear" Eisenkot would be number two, and Ya'alon would lead the party. "There's no discussion about it, because Eisenkot has learned Gantz's lesson," he argued. "You need political, ministerial experience, which I have and he doesn't."

Ya'alon explained that in order for the current opposition to a Knesset majority, "We need to convince the undecided, those that are going with Bennett at the moment" He added, "We need to convince Likudniks that remember the Likud of the past. I think that I can bring them."  

Opposition leader Lapid said Thursday he wasn't ruling out reuniting with Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party – from which his Yesh Atid faction split after Israel's latest election – but would demand to take the leadership of the potential joint slate.

“I really don’t want [to do this] alone, I’ll gladly take any possible link-up,” Lapid told Army Radio, a day after a preliminary Knesset vote to dissolve itself, possibly sending Isralis to the polls for a fourth time in two years.

Back to the future? Yair Lapid (L) and Benny Gantz share a laugh during a Kahol Lavan party faction meeting at the Knesset, Jerusalem, October 3, 2019.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS

A new Channel 12 poll shows that running together could give Lapid and Gantz their best electoral chances in the event of a fourth election.

Lawmakers voted to dissolve the Knesset by a margin of 61-54 in a preliminary vote Wednesday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to approve a state budget, allegedly in order to circumvent the provision in the coalition agreement that would see Gantz take over the premiership in one year's time.

Likud has been trying to persuade their junior coalition partner to pass a one-year budget, instead of a two-year budget, which would give Netanyahu an option to call an election further down the line in March 2021.

The bill will be prepared for a first reading in the Knesset's House Committee, which is controlled by Gantz's Kahol Lavan, and the first discussion is expected to take place this coming Monday.

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