Coalition crisis: Netanyahu, Gantz in war of nerves, another election possible

Opposition to table legislation Wednesday to dissolve Knesset, Netanyahu says he will vote against it, does not want elections, but won’t pass budget.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz launched political outmaneuvers Monday as the country edged closer to possible elections.

Speaking at a Likud Party caucus meeting at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, Netanyahu rejected opposition plans to introduce legislation on Wednesday to dissolve the house.

“On Wednesday, the opposition will try to drag Israel to unnecessary elections. The Likud will vote against elections and for unity, so that we can bring vaccines to all citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also talked about the national economy and his ongoing efforts to expand the peace treaties achieved in the past months to include other Arab countries – topics that would also rank high on a potential Likud election campaign.

“The people of Israel need a government that works not for elections, not for politics, but for them, for all the people of Israel without exception,” Netanyahu said in the ongoing exchange of threats leading up to what is expected to be a raucous debate when opposition leader Yair Lapid tables legislation on Wednesday to dissolve parliament.

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Earlier Monday, Gantz instructed his Blue and White party to prepare three new pieces of legislation without consulting Netanyahu’s Likud Party, both of which belong to a national unity coalition currently headed by Netanyahu.

Gantz appears to be forcing Netanyahu’s hand to agree to pass the national budget for 2021, a move the prime minister is avoiding, as it could help stabilize the government enough to avoid elections and, according to his opponents, would allow Gantz to take over as prime minister next November according to the terms of their coalition agreement.

“This budget is a matter of principle, and I am tired of the game that Netanyahu is forcing on me and the whole country,” Gantz said in a Maariv report, adding that if there was no significant change in Netanyahu’s conduct, the country will go to the polls.

Opposition Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid said he intends to go ahead with the legislation to dissolve parliament, and he called on Gantz to stop cooperating with Netanyahu.

“It’s time for you to stop being Netanyahu’s collaborators. You had good intentions, it did not work out. Now we need to fix it,” Lapid tweeted.

“If Blue and White does the right thing, in 48 hours the government will go home and Israel will embark on a new path,” he added.

Gantz is consulting with his senior party colleagues, including Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, with a decision on how they will vote.

Even if the vote, not expected until Tuesday evening at the earliest, passes its first reading, the bill to disperse the Knesset will be sent to committee and have to pass two more votes before it becomes law. That leaves more time for political jockeying for the sides to reach compromises on the budget and other issues and avoid elections, a move that opinion polls have shown is not liked by the public.

For his part, Lapid has said he believes there is enough support to get at least 61 members of the 120-seat Knesset to form a replacement centrist government without having to go to a national election. That would likely involve including the Arab parties in the government.