Benny Gantz, the alternate prime minister and Kahol Lavan party chairman, recently threatened that if a budget for 2021 isn’t prepared by the end of October and approved by the first week of November, Kahol Lavan will start proceedings in the Knesset to call early elections. On Wednesday, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t agree to pass the budget, Gantz will consider supporting lawmaker Moshe Ya’alon (Yesh Atid-Telem) as temporary prime minister. As Gantz told associates, supporting Ya’alon, holding new elections, dismantling the current government and forming a new one are “all on the table.”
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Gantz’s demand is justified. Nobody disputes the fact that the country’s welfare requires a budget. That is the view of the best Israeli economists, including Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron. Gantz also has the law on his side, as well as the coalition agreements that Netanyahu signed and the Knesset approved. Indeed, as Gantz said, if Netanyahu doesn’t pass a budget, this will be “a crime against the country and its citizens,” because the prime minister’s decision to leave Israel without a budget would not be based on any substantive economic considerations.
Netanyahu is using the budget as a tool for political control. He is holding the entire country hostage, harming Israel and all Israelis at the height of a pandemic and an economic crisis, and in the process dismantling the senior ranks of the Finance Ministry and endangering the country’s credit rating – all solely to leave himself an exit ramp for new elections before it’s time to rotate the prime minister’s job to Gantz, for the purpose of violating that commitment.
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He must not be allowed to continue to deceive the public into thinking his fight with Kahol Lavan over the budget is a substantive, professional, economic dispute. The considerations guiding Netanyahu in this battle have nothing to do with the good of the economy or the good of the country. On the contrary, he is sacrificing Israel’s economy strictly for his own personal benefit.
Under the coalition agreement that Kahol Lavan signed with Likud, a two-year budget was supposed to have been passed by the end of August. A compromise proposed by lawmaker Zvi Hauser gave Netanyahu another 100 days to uphold the agreement. But Netanyahu, as usual, is thumbing his nose at the pact. For him, a “parity” government, coalition agreements, contracts and promises are merely sophisticated tricks and gimmicks meant to keep him in the Prime Minister’s office.
It’s important for Gantz to stand firm on this issue. He must withstand the heavy pressure that will presumably be exerted on him in the coming days, even if the price is dismantling the government.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.