Netanyahu: Gantz 'needs to stop dragging Israel to elections'

Vote was on preliminary reading. Meretz and Yesh Atid-sponsored bills pass; bills sponsored by Yamina and Joint List fall.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Knesset, December 2, 2020 (photo credit: YONATHAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Knesset, December 2, 2020
(photo credit: YONATHAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
The short term of the 23rd Knesset came one key step closer to completion on Wednesday, when MKs from the opposition and Blue and White passed Knesset dispersal bills.
Bills sponsored by Meretz and Yesh Atid-Telem passed by a vote of 61 to 54; bills sponsored by Yamina and the Joint List did not pass.
The bills were passed only in their preliminary readings, so they must pass three more times in the plenum and three times in the Knesset House Committee to become law and enable the parliament to be dispersed. The House Committee will be convened on Monday to officially declare itself the committee that will legislate the dispersal bill.
Further readings of the bill will require a date. The Likud is expected to push for the latest possible date, and the opposition for the earliest.
In a press conference hours after the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz “needs to stop dragging Israel to elections” and that “it’s not too late.”
He avoided questions about whether the election was being initiated because he did not want to honor his agreement with Gantz on a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Gantz responded that if it were not for Netanyahu’s criminal trial, there would be a functioning government and a state budget and there would not be an election.
“The blame is on you and only you,” Gantz said.
Despite the mutual recriminations, negotiations between associates of Netanyahu and Gantz took place after the vote, in an effort to prevent the election.
While the voting took place, Netanyahu and Gantz sat next to each other and made a point of looking in different directions. Earlier, Ministerial Liaison to the Knesset David Amsalem (Likud), who is close to Netanyahu, called Gantz “spineless.”
The Joint List’s four-member Ra’am (United Arab List) Party, led by MK Mansour Abbas, decided not to attend the vote, despite pressure from its Joint List colleagues to support the bill. He will face sanctions for violating faction discipline.
“I call upon the Knesset to vote in favor of this bill, to disperse and let the people of Israel choose a government that genuinely cares about them,” said opposition leader Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid-Telem), who initiated the process of dispersing the Knesset.
Lapid said his bill was not intended to be “just another round of ‘anyone but Bibi,’” aimed at defeating Netanyahu. He said the bill was being presented “because it’s time to end that focus,” and “the anger and the hatred and the terrible mismanagement and the politics that are destroying our country won’t end as long as he’s there.”
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz told the Knesset plenum that Netanyahu needs to leave office due to his criminal cases, and he would have already left had Blue and White listened to his office and not joined the government. He said he hopes the voters of the center-left camp had learned the lesson to not support “Trojan horses who spit in their faces,” referring to Blue and White, Labor and Gesher.
Joint List head Ayman Odeh said his voters would ensure that Netanyahu would leave office and end up in jail.
Yamina head Naftali Bennett started his campaign by saying that both Netanyahu and Lapid “engage in politics all day and circulate hate.”
In a gesture to the Likud, Blue and White postponed by a week a vote on its controversial Equality Bill. The bill was strongly opposed by the Likud and its coalition partners in Shas and United Torah Judaism, as well as the right-wing Derech Eretz Party that is part of the Blue and White faction.
In a Channel 13 poll conducted by pollster Camil Fuchs that asked Israelis who is to blame for the possible election, 45% blamed Netanyahu, 20% Gantz and 25% both equally.
The poll found that if the election would be held now, Likud would win 29 seats, Yamina 22, Yesh Atid-Telem 19, Joint List 11, Blue and White 10, Yisrael Beytenu eight, and Shas, Meretz and United Torah Judaism seven each.
If former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot were to head a new list along with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, the poll predicted that it could win 15 seats.