Netanyahu, Katz won’t compromise on budget with Blue and White

Duo pledge to toughen stance even if it means going to elections.

Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz is seen in thoughtful mode at a Blue and White faction meeting in the Knesset. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz is seen in thoughtful mode at a Blue and White faction meeting in the Knesset.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz met late Monday and decided not to give in to Blue and White’s demands to pass the 2021 state budget by the end of the year, even if it means initiating another election, sources close to Netanyahu said Monday night.
The sources confirmed a KAN News report that Netanyahu and Katz decided against compromising and would instead toughen their stance in the dispute.
“We will not surrender,” Katz said. “If Blue and White continues to make demands, it would already be better to go to elections.”
The decision not to give in to Blue and White came after a day of threats by its leaders.
If the 2021 budget is not advanced by the end of the month, Israel will go to elections, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said Monday.
“We entered this government to save Israel from the [coronavirus] crisis,” he told Ynet. “The business isn’t working. If it does not change, it’s over.”
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz told the Blue and White faction he met with Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron, who agreed with him that the 2021 budget must be passed immediately.
“I am not prepared to be held hostage in anyone’s political situation,” Gantz said. “My priorities are the priorities of the country, not my own. It should be the same way on the other end.
“We are prepared to cooperate in the context of a functioning government where a budget is taking shape. If we don’t see that happening, we’ll choose other alternatives, whether dissolving the Knesset or taking other measures. Things certainly cannot continue as they are.”
Netanyahu on Monday told the Likud faction he was not concerned about polls indicating that Yamina leader Naftali Bennett could form a government without the Likud.
“I never succeed in the polls, only in the elections,” Netanyahu said.
Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked said Yamina would form the next government. She mocked Blue and White, calling its MKs “Netanyahu’s dishrags.”
In response, Gantz told Channel 13: “Everything Bennett has talked about I went and did.”
Netanyahu faced criticism in a special Knesset session with him initiated by the opposition. Opposition leader Yair Lapid said Netanyahu lived in such a bubble that he was not even aware of his failures in handling the coronavirus.
Lapid on Monday told his Yesh Atid faction at the Knesset he believes haredi (ultra-Orthodox) institutions that violate coronavirus restrictions must be fined NIS 100,000 instead of the current 5,000 and then lose all their funding if there are repeated violations.
“An educational institution that doesn’t abide by the law wouldn’t get a shekel from the state,” he said. “It’s not against the ultra-Orthodox, it’s in favor of the ultra-Orthodox. It will save their lives.”
Lapid said he blamed recent violations of coronavirus directives in the haredi community on Netanyahu.
“What’s happened in the last few days isn’t the fault of the ultra-Orthodox,” he said. “It’s what they’ve been told for years. Netanyahu told them that the rules don’t apply to them. It’s a deal they have: They let Netanyahu stay on as prime minister, and in exchange he will make sure they receive budgets and that the rules won’t apply to them. But this time it’s harming the ultra-Orthodox public, not helping them.”
Israel needs to help the haredi communities by allowing them to study and pray in the open air, to transfer authority to mayors, to invest more in explaining the situation, to ensure that there are solutions for big families in isolation and, if necessary, to hire large holiday camps for that purpose, Lapid said. But Israel also needs to tell the ultra-Orthodox public it must abide by the rules, he said.
“Because of his trial, Netanyahu is running away from a clash with the ultra-Orthodox parties,” Lapid said. “He needs them, so he surrenders to them. That surrender harms everyone, but first and foremost it harms the ultra-orthodox public. The state has a responsibility to stand up against those who break the law.”