Netanyahu budget promise keeps government afloat into 2021

"You have already breached the agreement we signed. It will be tragic if you breach the agreement with the citizens of Israel."

NETANYAHU AND Gantz – can they put their animosity aside and serve the public? (photo credit: CORINNA KERN AMIR COHEN REUTERS)
NETANYAHU AND Gantz – can they put their animosity aside and serve the public?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his promise to pass a budget in December, which would likely keep the government intact at least until March 2021, in response to threats from Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday.
“We agreed and passed a law that the 2020 budget will be approved in December and, in parallel, we are already preparing the 2021 budget,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Radio Kol Barama. “That’s the law that they approved, and Blue and White is denying it. They need to stop being the opposition within the government.”
Netanyahu warned that “their endless struggles in the government are pushing us to elections. The time has come to stop.”
The Finance Ministry’s Budget Department has already begun working on the budget, Finance Minister Israel Katz tweeted Thursday night.
A source close to Netanyahu says he plans to have the government move forward toward passing the budgets, but still views March 2021 – the final deadline for that year’s budget to pass – as a possible exit ramp if the unity government continues to be unworkable, a source close to the prime minister explained.
The coalition agreement between Blue and White states that if Likud dissolves the Knesset, actively calling for an election, Gantz would become the interim prime minister. However, there is a lacuna in the agreement, such that the early rotation to Gantz would not happen if an election is automatically triggered by a budget not passing.
The coalition avoided that fate amid the worsening coronavirus crisis in August, extending the 100-day deadline for a national budget for 2020 to be passed. The new budget deadline is December 23, meaning that the 2020 budget would go into effect for only eight days. An election could be called if the 2020 budget is not passed on that date, but Netanyahu’s remarks and a similar Likud statement indicate that they do not plan for that to happen.
Blue and White and Likud agreed in August to work on the 2021 budget in tandem with the 2020 budget, but are once again clashing over the details. Netanyahu, in his radio interview, did not commit to actually passing the 2021 budget immediately after the 2020 one, but just to preparing it, while Gantz demanded it be brought to the cabinet for votes in December.
Gantz’s demand came at a time when Netanyahu’s popularity is waning. A Channel 12 poll on Tuesday showed Likud down to 26 seats as opposed to its current 36, and Yamina up to 23 from its current five.
By demanding that the 2021 budget be passed in December, Gantz attempted to deny Netanyahu the additional March 2021 exit ramp, which would lead to an election that would likely be in June, while Netanyahu’s response left that possibility open.
In a letter sent to Netanyahu on Thursday, Gantz demanded that a 2021 budget be prepared and blasted the prime minister for “breaching” the coalition agreement.
Gantz said there is an “incomprehensible gap between the goodwill and commitment” shown at the time the unity government was formed and the current situation.
The most important shortcoming of the government, Gantz argued, is that it is transfers budgets in a piecemeal way, on individual issues as needed, over many months.
The Blue and White leader said that “the time has come, and the necessity, to put together a long-term economic plan backed by an organized state budget that will lead the market to economic growth, will improve the welfare, health and security of the citizens, increase sources of employment, incentivize business activity and increase the trust of financial systems in the Israeli economy.”
Gantz demanded that Netanyahu instruct the Finance Ministry to prepare a 2021 budget to be brought to the cabinet and Knesset for approval no later than the beginning of December.
“The patchwork method is over,” Gantz said of the way funds are currently transferred. “Any obstacle to authorizing the budget means one thing: preferring personal considerations over the good of Israel’s citizens.”
Gantz also demanded that there be regular cabinet meetings. There has not been one in nearly a month; the next one will be on Monday.
In addition, the alternate prime minister called on Netanyahu to allow political appointments of senior figures – such as the state attorney and chief of police.
“You already breached the agreement between us. It would be tragic if you also breach the agreement with the citizens of Israel,” Gantz concluded.
Likud responded to the letter by accusing Blue and White of “playing politics in order to direct the fire away from their crumbling party while the prime minister is fighting coronavirus.”
Blue and White is “hiding” the fact that the parties “reached an agreement and passed a law for the 2020 budget to be passed in December parallel to preparations for the 2021 budget,” the Likud said.
In addition, Likud pointed out that the coalition agreement called for parties to form a committee for senior political appointments that Blue and White refuses to establish.
Netanyahu “has passed more budgets than any other world leaders and has a demonstrated record of building Israel’s economy, as opposed to Blue and White [MKs] who have never passed a budget in their lives,” the Likud statement continued.
Leon Sverdlov contributed to this report.