Is Israel heading toward new elections? Likud dusting off local campaign HQs

Senior members of Likud say the coalition isn’t working, and are beginning to make noises about primaries.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

As cracks in the coalition continue to appear, Likud officials have begun threatening that the discord will lead to the government dissolving itself only a few months after it was formed.

“The political bond between us and Blue and White cannot continue if there won’t be improvement,” coalition head Miki Zohar said Saturday. “The time has come to decide: Passing the budget, [having] a stable government and working coalition – or elections.”

There is a huge disagreement between the two major coalition partners whether a one- or two-year state budget should be passed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wants the flexibility of a one-year budget that in reality would only be a four or five month plan, until the end of 2020, as there are too many economic unknowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says that that the country needs the stability of a budget running through 2021.

As the law stands now, if a budget is not passed by August 25, the country must go to new elections. There has been some noise about making a temporary change in the law so that the deadline is not quite so close, but nothing has been done about it so far in the Knesset.

One sign that Likud politicians think that the end of the emergency government is near is that they have begun to talk about party primaries, with Ministers Tzachi Hanegbi and Ze’ev Elkin speaking about it openly.

According to Makor Rishon on Sunday, senior members have begun refreshing their campaign staffs and updating Central Committee members, those who decide how to rank the candidates on the party list.

Meanwhile, the freshmen MKs, who have no legislative victories under their belts yet to attract votes, want to have the list frozen, as it was for the three rounds of elections that followed each other in quick succession before the current coalition was created.

What may give the lawmakers pause is that the latest polls show Likud falling below its current number of mandates. A Channel 12 survey published Thursday had the ruling party at 32 seats v. its current 35. The trajectory downward may be even sharper if one recalls that just a month ago polls had the Likud at 40 seats.

Of possibly more concern to Netanyahu personally is that the survey showed that only 42 percent of the public think he’s doing a good job right now.

On the other hand, elections would lead to a more stable coalition, according to projections. The ultra-Orthodox would preserve their current numbers (16 all together) and Yemina, a party to the right of the Likud, would jump to 15 seats, giving 63 mandates to the right-wing-religious bloc.