Israel’s 4th election campaign opened yesterday, pundits say, even if country doesn’t know it

After fiery Knesset session rife with finger-pointing and insults, pundits say Israeli politicians are positioning themselves for a fresh round of elections.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

After Wednesday’s fiery Knesset session rife with finger-pointing and insults, pundits say Israeli politicians are positioning themselves for a fresh round of elections in November.

The left-wing Meretz party called the special session, focused on “the shocking failure of Netanyahu and the government in dealing with the coronavirus crises,” after gathering the requisite 40 signatures required for the prime minister to attend.

Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz kicked off the session by accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “abandoning the State of Israel to the coronavirus, corruption and persecution of the law enforcement system, and incitement, division and an effort to suppress legitimate protests.”

Netanyahu responded by calling out left-wing parties for encouraging the protests against him. He said leftists are “fighting the government” while the government is focused on managing the health and financial crises.

“With you on the left, everything is political,” said Netanyahu. “The coronavirus is political. The economy is political. And also the demonstrations. I am not talking about the demonstrations by those affected by the pandemic, the restaurant owners, the business owners.

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“I’m talking about other protests. Those that were organized by the left, funded by left-wing foundations, and are getting disproportionate media coverage. It’s ‘fake news,’ streamed live.”

“The media… tell us that the left-wing protests are spontaneous, but the spontaneous protests of the left are the most organized protests ever.  The spontaneous protests are organized in luxury hotels and high rise towers,” he said, referring to the fact that protest leaders were caught staying at the Waldorf Astoria near to where the main protests in Jerusalem have taken place.

Ynet reported that five MKs were ejected from the plenum for disrupting Netanyahu’s speech, including Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg, Israel Beitenu’s Eli Avidar, and the Arab Joint List’s Heba Yazbak.

Knesset members from all sides of the political aisle took swipes at Netanyahu, criticizing him on a number of fronts. Israeli media pundits have called the session a warm-up for a new round of elections, as parliamentarians appeared to be honing their campaign slogans.

“We paid for the chair you’re sitting on now. It’s not yours. It’s the Israeli citizens’. You’re not the landlord here. You’re an employee,” said MK Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party.

“You know why the protesters are coming to Balfour? Because they’re the landlords. This isn’t your house, it’s their house. They came to tell you the lease is over.”

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MK Naftali Bennett of the Yemina party, who is thought to be positioning himself as a right-wing alternative to Netanyahu, said, “When I was Defense Minister, I worked on Shabbat [to tackle the pandemic]. I broke Shabbat for pikuah nefesh [saving of life].”

Addressing the coalition leaders, he said, “What have you done for the last 80 days? Get a hold of yourselves. Our people are dying. You are killing them! You cannot blame anyone but yourselves.”

If the coalition does not pass a budget in two-and-a-half weeks, by August 25, the Knesset will automatically dissolve and Israel will head to elections in November. That would mark the fourth round of general elections in Israel in two years.