Knesset bill fails to pass, making 4th election nearly inevitable

Blue and White, Likud Knesset members broke ranks to vote against the bill.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Knesset voted down a compromise solution for a national budget, setting the scene for Israel’s parliament to automatically dissolve itself Tuesday at midnight and sending the country to its fourth national election in two years.

Several members of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party broke party ranks and voted late Monday night against the bill that would have delayed a budget decision until next month.

The legislation was defeated 49-47, after Blue and White members Assaf Zamir, Ram Shefa and Miki Haimovich, and Likud MK Michal Shir Segman all voted against. Immediately after the vote, Shir Segman tweeted that she was joining the new party of former Likud stalwart Gideon Saar, who announced earlier this month he would run against Netanyahu in the elections.

“Blue and White withdrew from the agreements and dragged us to unnecessary choices during the corona crisis,” Netanyahu tweeted. “We do not want elections and we voted against them tonight as well, but we are not afraid of elections – because we will win.”

Following defeat of the bill at the hands of members of his own party, Gantz did not make any statement.

By law, the Knesset had to approve the national budget by December 23, and with the chances of reaching agreement on the budget now almost nil, parliament is expected to disperse at midnight on Tuesday.

When that happens, the country will be run by a transitional government under which all members maintain their positions until a new government is sworn in. The elections are currently scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 23.

With only hours left before the deadline expires, Likud member Miki Zohar, the coalition caucus chairman, tried to leave the door open to a last minute compromise.

“Transferring the 2020 budget is a right and necessary thing without any connection to all the political struggles,” Zohar tweeted Tuesday morning. “I call on the Minister of Finance to bring the budget to the Knesset as soon as possible, of course I will act for its immediate approval.”