Netanyahu, Gantz refuse to budge on budget fight, warn of elections

In shadow of potential elections over budget fight, Gantz insists two-year budget be passed as per coalition agreement, says he "knows" that "PM motivated by national responsibility."

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 30, 2020.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 30, 2020.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz appeared willing on Monday to change their stances in their fight over the state budget, presaging a serious political storm in the coming weeks, and possibly new elections.
Addressing the media during the Likud faction meeting on Monday, Netanyahu insisted a budget be passed as quick as possible, implying only a one-year budget can be passed at present.
Gantz, speaking at the Blue and White faction meeting just after Netanyahu, insisted the two-year budget stipulated in the coalition agreement be honored.
The coalition agreement between Blue and White and Likud states explicitly that a two-year budget must be passed, but Netanyahu is insisting on passing just a one-year budget, which would give him his last opportunity to topple the government at the end of March, without passing the premiership over to Gantz.
If a budget is not passed by August 25, the Knesset will automatically be dissolved and new elections called.
“There is no need to go to elections, Israel does not need elections, it needs a budget and as quickly as possible, all economists say this so we can begin the academic year in September,” said Netanyahu at the Likud faction meeting in the Knesset.
Although the prime minister did not say explicitly that he wants a one-year budget, he and the Likud Party are insisting that only a one-year budget be passed because they insist that the financial requirements for 2021 are too uncertain at the moment.
Blue and White is arguing the 2020 budget will deal with just the last quarter of the year since it will only be passed by the end of August at the earliest, and that passing a two-year budget would create greater economic stability.
During the Blue and White faction meeting, Gantz insisted the prime minister honor the coalition agreement to pass a budget for 2021 as well as 2020, and said going to elections would be “irresponsible” on a national scale.
“We need a state budget, a responsible budget, a long-term budget with stability... No one should have to ask themselves every morning what his fate will be in another half a year... a budget for 2021 will provide these answers,” said Gantz.
“If the Likud stands by this agreement governmental stability will be achieved and economic stability at the same time. We are standing by this agreement. I expect everyone to behave thusly,” the alternate prime minister warned, although he said he “knows” that Netanyahu is motivated by “national responsibility.”
In the shadow of the budget fight, Derech Eretz MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel submitted legislation to push back the budget deadline to November, in order to avert the possibility of new elections.
Hendel and Hauser are of the opinion that opposition to the bill from either side would demonstrate a desire to go to new elections, something Hendel said would be “madness.”
Earlier on Monday, Hendel stated he would not join a narrow, right-wing government led by the Likud and jettison Blue and White from the coalition.
The budget dispute has led to reports that the Likud is seeking to form a right-wing government comprised of the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Yamina, Derech Eretz and MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, who sits as a lone Knesset member.
This would see the formation of a coalition with a bare majority of 61 MKs, and would mean Netanyahu could ditch the Blue and White Party, which is stymieing him in several arenas crucial to his personal and political interests.
Speaking on KAN radio, Hendel said, however, he would not join such a government.
“There are people around Netanyahu who want elections, but elections would be disastrous for the State of Israel,” said the communications minister.
“To go to elections when we have so many citizens unemployed, when we’re dealing with corona would be a disaster for the State of Israel ,and I won’t let it happen – or any tricks of this kind.”
Pressed several times as to whether he would abandon a unity government and join a right-wing one instead, Hendel said “I will not go with a narrow, right-wing government with the Likud.”
Continued the minister, “The role of the state-oriented right-wing at this time is to preserve the unity government which I, amongst others, am responsible for forming... The only option is to strengthen the current government and to create a budget for this government, otherwise the State of Israel will be harmed.”