Election bill to be voted on next week, sets March 16 date

Knesset committee advances bill to dissolve the Knesset; country faces elections in March unless budget deal reached.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Knesset committee approved Wednesday the bill to dissolve the Knesset and set March 16 as the date for Israel’s fourth elections in the past two years.

“We will hold short, cost-effective and transparent elections,” said committee chairman Eitan Ginzburg of the Blue and White party. “We intend to bring the bill to the Knesset for first reading this coming Monday.”

The bill will have to pass three readings in the Knesset before it becomes law, with the final reading as early as next Wednesday.

The central issue behind the call for elections is the refusal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to approve the 2021 national budget, which drove his coalition partner Blue and White leader and Defense Minister Benny Gantz to support a vote in the Knesset last week for new elections.

Gantz said last week in the Knesset that if Netanyahu passes the state budget, there will be no election. Netanyahu appears  not to want a full 2021 budget, which would stabilize the government and pave the way for Gantz to become prime minister next November under the coalition agreement the two signed earlier that sees each party leader take turns heading the country for 18 months.

Netanyahu’s stated reason for not approving the budge is the coronavirus crisis, saying vaccines need to be obtained and the pandemic has to end first before the government can know what the budget will be, a position rejected by senior finance officials. It is estimated that Netanyahu wants the election to take place in June before the rotation agreement with Gantz, Walla News reported.

Committee members from Netanyahu’s Likud party voted against the move, which included a cut in election campaign funding for large parties that would be transferred to small and new parties, including the breakaway party of Likud veteran Gidon Sa’ar who announced Tuesday he was leaving the Likud and starting a new movement to run for the Knesset.

Sa’ar resigned his seat in the Knesset Wednesday morning, saying he would return to the Knesset after the elections “at the head of a large political force that will replace the government.”

However, even if the bill to dissolve the Knesset is not approved in three readings, if the state budget has not been approved by December 23, the Knesset will disperse automatically by law and the election will take place within three months.

Should the country go to elections, the transitional government during the election period will look like the current government with all cabinet ministers retaining their portfolios until the next government is sworn in.