Tourism minister resignation may be first step to elections

Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir of the Blue and White Party quits, saying he doesn’t have an “ounce of trust” in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The resignation of a cabinet minister from the Blue and White Party may be the first clear step on the path to new elections.

Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir of the Blue and White Party announced his resignation Friday, saying he “can no longer sit in a government in which I don’t have an ounce of trust in the person at its head.”

“I have unfortunately determined that the coronavirus crisis and its terrible impact is at best in second place in the list of priorities of the prime minister. Personal and legal considerations are at the top of Netanyahu’s priorities,” Zamir said.

The frustrated minister had opposed limitations on public demonstrations imposed as part of the coronavirus restrictions to try to block the out-of-control spread of coronavirus. With Israel’s tourism paralyzed and hundreds of thousands of industry workers unemployed by the pandemic, Zamir has also had little work to do.

Defense Minister and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz  directed Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, also a member of his party, to begin the search for a new state attorney.

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In a Facebook post on Friday, Gantz said,

“I have accepted my friend, Minister Asaf Zamir’s, resignation notice with understanding and regret….

“To restore order and normal governance, I have instructed the justice minister to start an expedited appointment process, but in a manner that is fully in line with the state’s attorney protocol, and I further call for the start of the process to appoint a permanent police commissioner as well.”

It is unclear if Netanyahu will agree to such an arrangement.

In May, Gantz agreed to join a Netanyahu-led unity government in order to confront the coronavirus crisis, but the government has been wracked with internal dissension as the pandemic spread unchecked, leading to a decision to impose a national lockdown on September 25.

Gantz’s popularity in public opinion polls has plummeted, but he does not intend to resign from the government and instead will make it difficult for Netanyahu. Gantz is expected to vote against extending the lockdown and restrictions on anti-government protests that expire October 14.

As well,  unless the government approves a new state budget by December, the national unity government will collapse.

The Knesset has until December 23 to approve the state budget, otherwise by law the Knesset session will end and the country will go to elections, which would likely take place in mid-March 2021.