Israel’s coalition partners descend into mutual recriminations as government likely enters final day

Likud and Blue and White parties trade barbs as budget bill was last chance to stave off elections.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Mutual recriminations between coalition partners Likud and Blue and White started flying even before the vote Monday night for a bill that would have at least delayed elections failed to pass.

“We should have found any way possible to prevent these extraneous elections,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the plenum before the 49-47 defeat.

“We had agreements with Blue and White. At the last minute, Benny Gantz retreated from… the things we had agreed upon in order to stop the bureaucratic-judicial dictatorship here. But he didn’t withstand the pressure from [Justice Minister Avi] Nissenkorn and his friends. Of course, we can’t agree to this, so seemingly Blue and White, including its people who are going to vote tonight, are going to drag us to unnecessary elections.”

While most MKs of Blue and White had stayed away from the plenum, following orders from on high due to the ongoing efforts of party head Benny Gantz to come to some kind of compromise with Netanyahu, three came to vote with the opposition. Michal Shir of the Likud also voted against the coalition, leading to the bill’s defeat.

Keeping Nissenkorn as Justice Minister with his powers intact was one of the five inviolable conditions Gantz had set, in order to “maintain the rule of law,” as he put it in a Facebook post. But his party “did not find partners” in “serving the good of the country.”

Earlier on Monday, he repeated the theme of his previous election campaigns, saying, “I regret that the prime minister is preoccupied with his trial and not the public interest, and is prepared to drag the entire country into a period of uncertainty instead of ensuring economic stability and a rehabilitation of the economy.”

Nissenkorn had harsh words as well for Netanyahu.

“There’s not a democracy in the world that would accept a situation in which a head of state holds the country’s budget hostage and demands to trample the mechanisms of the rule of law. This will not happen in Israel either,” he said.

In contrast, coalition chairman and Likud MK Miki Zohar said, “Blue and White has consciously chosen to commit political suicide; emotion has won over common sense. They are going to the polls just so Avi Nissenkorn can stay in his position for another three months, in which he will try to preserve the hegemony of the judiciary.”

Unless a political miracle occurs, the 23rd Knesset will seemingly be dissolved Tuesday at midnight and the country will go to its fourth round of elections in two years on March 23rd.

When Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin of the Likud announced the outcome of the vote and members of the opposition began cheering, he warned of unexpected consequences.

“I suggest to all those clapping to remember that experience has taught that those who have clapped for the dispersal of the Knesset, in general not a few of them were not elected to the next Knesset, so don’t rejoice ahead of time.”