Israel's coalition crisis: Summit held as Gantz's Blue and White continue boycott

Asked on the way to Bennett's office if there would be a solution to the crisis, Gantz said he hoped so. 

 THE LEADERS of the coalition in the Knesset last month.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
THE LEADERS of the coalition in the Knesset last month.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met individually with party leaders on Wednesday in an effort to reach a compromise on the dispute over expensive pension raises for IDF officers that resulted in his coalition losing every vote in the Knesset plenum. 

Bennett will meet with the eight party heads together in Tel Aviv on Thursday in hopes of resolving the dispute before the pension bill comes to the plenum for its first reading next Monday. One possible compromise is to pass the pension bill as is and then change it in committee during the spring recess.

When Bennett left a meeting with Gantz in his Knesset office, he told reporters who asked about the crisis that it "is not comfortable but not awful" and pledged that "we are going in the right direction."  

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced on Wednesday morning that his Blue and White faction would continue the boycott of coalition legislation that he announced on Monday to protest the lack of implementation of his party's initiatives, including the pension bill. 

"Blue and White and I will not compromise on passing laws and decisions that deal directly with Israeli security, the power of the IDF and the future and character of Israeli society," Gantz said.

Asked on the way to Bennett's office if there would be a solution to the crisis, Gantz said he hoped so. 

"We are trying to find a way for there to be a good [solution], he said."

Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White political party (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White political party (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

After Blue and White's announcement, the coalition withdrew a dozen bills from the Knesset's agenda for Wednesday and told coalition MKs that they could go home. The coalition decided to lose on the remaining dozen bills on the agenda, which were all votes on preliminary readings of bills that would have to pass three more times in the plenum, as well as in committee.

Exceptions were to be made for three key bills deemed destructive by the party: two for term limits for Supreme Court judges and one for forming a parliamentary inquiry on the price Israel paid for submarines. But even the bills Blue and White said it would vote against passed without a challenge. Bills by Religious Zionist Party MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Avi Maoz that would institute term limits for Supreme Court judges passed by a vote of 38 to 3.

There were also bills advanced that would significantly increase child welfare payments for large families and require gas stations nationwide to have power stations for plugging in electric cars.

"It was proven in the Knesset today that the opposition controls the plenum and Israel doesn't really have a government," said Likud faction head Yariv Levin. "The biggest prime ministerial failure in the country's history has not been able to bring his ministers in line for a third week in a row. That is not what leadership looks like. That is what bankruptcy looks like."

Because the coalition did not participate in the voting, the short Knesset career of Yisrael Beytenu MK Sharon Roffe Ofir ended a day early. Due to the Norwegian Law, she will leave the Knesset automatically on Thursday afternoon, when the resignation of Strategic Planning Minister Eli Avidar takes effect and he returns to the parliament.