Naftali Bennett endorses early election

Likud and Blue and White are to join forces to stymie probes

Naftali Bennett (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Naftali Bennett
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett came out in favor of holding early elections for the first time on Tuesday, after months of saying that it was wrong to initiate another race.
Sources close to Bennett said the reason for his change of heart is that the lockdown is over, and it will now be possible to hold an election. The sources said it had nothing to do with recent favorable polls, including Sunday's Channel 13 poll that found Yamina only trails Likud by three seats and could form a government without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party.
"Until recently, I opposed elections," Bennett told Army Radio. "But now, when the government is so far away from functioning, it is the preferable option. I gave up on the possibility that this government will be able to lead us."
Bennett made a controversial statement in the interview that could lose him the backing of new supporters. He said that while he favors reaching out to the LGBT community, he would not favor bills the community has pleaded for, such as recognizing same-sex marriages or allowing gay male couples to adopt children.
Early elections have become increasingly likely due to a dispute between Likud and Blue and White over the timetable for the 2021 state budget. Finance Minister Israel Katz reiterated on Tuesday that he would not give into Blue and White's demand to pass the 2021 budget by the end of the year.
"It will take until the middle of February to pass it into law," Katz said.
Blue and White responded on Twitter that not passing the  2021 budget by the end of the year would result in the lowering of Israel's credit rating and irrevocable damage to Israel's economy.
"This government cannot continue without a budget," said MK Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz), who initiated a compromise the last time Likud and Blue and White fought over the budget. "The finance minister needs to expedite a budget."
Likud and Blue and White are set to cooperate in the Knesset on Wednesday, despite their ongoing dispute. The Likud will help Blue and White block Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich's bill that would enable the Knesset to probe conflicts of interest among judges. Blue and White will help Likud in preventing Yesh Atid from initiating a parliamentary probe of the Submarine Affair.  
Blue and White intends to test its partnership with Likud at next week's cabinet meeting by proposing several key appointments that have been held up for months, including for the Justice Ministry's director-general