Blue and White to vote to disperse Knesset today as elections loom

Netanyahu urges Gantz to keep government together, claiming that unity is needed to fight the coronavirus and save the economy.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz announces that he will be supporting opposition leader Yair Lapid's Knesset dispersal bill, Tuesday, December 1st, 2020. (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz announces that he will be supporting opposition leader Yair Lapid's Knesset dispersal bill, Tuesday, December 1st, 2020.
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz announced at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel on Tuesday night that his Blue and White faction will support opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Knesset dispersal bill when it comes to a vote in the plenum on Wednesday, but he still left open the possibility that early elections could be avoided.
Gantz said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “promised unity and that there would not be tricks and shticks.” He lamented that “Netanyahu broke his promises and the people are paying the price.”
“Netanyahu did not lie to me,” he said. “He lied to you. Netanyahu did not mislead me. He misled all citizens of Israel.”
The Blue and White leader warned that Netanyahu is on a personal quest to save himself from his legal problems and that he chose to go to elections by not passing the state budget. But Gantz nevertheless reached out to the prime minister and offered him another chance.
“The election can still be prevented by the person who is causing it,” he said, referring to Netanyahu. “If you act properly, without political maneuvers, millions of Israelis will not have to go to the polls for a fourth time in March.”
Netanyahu preempted Gantz’s press conference with a video urging him to keep the current government together.
“Unfortunately, Blue and White is being dragged by [opposition leaders Yair] Lapid and [Naftali] Bennett,” Netanyahu said. “Lapid and Bennett don’t care if we go to elections in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. That is their personal interest.
“Even though Blue and White formed a government within our government, acted against it and broke coalition agreements, I ask them to set it all aside,” the prime minister said. “Benny, what has to be done now is a U-turn from politics for the citizens of Israel. That is what needs to be done, and I ask you to do that.”
Speaking earlier on a visit to the Coronavirus Enforcement Authority, Netanyahu told reporters that efforts are being made constantly to prevent elections.
“We will vote against dispersing the Knesset and for unity,” Netanyahu said. “I call upon Benny Gantz to pursue unity with us and prevent dispersing the Knesset. We don’t need elections now.”
Netanyahu accused Blue and White of violating the coalition agreement by moving forward with the appointment of Haifa District prosecutor Amit Aisman as the new state prosecutor. The post was only supposed to be filled in conjunction with Likud, along with the appointment of a new state police chief.
The Knesset dispersal bill is only being brought in a preliminary reading. It would still have to pass three more times in the Knesset plenum and three times in the Knesset House Committee to become law. It may not pass into law by the December 23 deadline to pass the 2020 state budget, when the Knesset would be dispersed automatically.
Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar told KAN Radio on Tuesday that even if Blue and White votes for the preliminary reading, he would ask Netanyahu to negotiate with Gantz and keep the government together, because it is not right to go to elections until after the coronavirus crisis ends.
Labor Party ministers Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli announced early Tuesday that they would vote in favor of dispersing the Knesset.
“It is not possible to continue to have a government whose most permanent aspect is uncertainty, especially regarding the budget that has been taken captive by the prime minister due to personal considerations,” they said in a joint statement. “Instead of constant paralysis and an exchange of accusations, it is better to dissolve the Knesset and go to the polls now.”
Ra’am, the United Arab List of MK Mansour Abbas, announced on Tuesday evening that its four MKs in the Joint List are undecided on how to vote.
“We will act to help our constituents, not to help the Left or Right, Lapid, Gantz, Netanyahu or Bennett.”
Without the four Ra’am MKs, no more than 62 MKs will vote for the Knesset dispersal bill. The bill does not need an absolute majority for its preliminary reading but it would for its final reading.
Sarah Ben-Nun contributed to this report.