Blue and White meeting with finance minister ends with no deal

Gantz: Hanukkah miracle needed to prevent early elections

Benny Gantz
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Finance Minister Israel Katz met at Gantz's office at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Sunday night in a last-ditch effort to resolve a dispute between Gantz's Blue and White Party and Katz's Likud to prevent an early election.
The two leaders discussed the 2020 state budget, which legally must be passed by December 23, and the 2021 state budget, which Gantz has insisted on passing by December 31. Economy Minister Air Peretz, Tourism Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata accompanied Gantz to the meeting.
Asked if progress was being made, one participant told The Jerusalem Post: "Not really."
The two-hour meeting ended without an agreement being reached. Gantz had warned in advance of the meeting that if he was not told the 2021 state budget would be passed immediately, Israel would go to elections.
"Another week has passed and the country still doesn’t have a budget for 2021," Gantz lamented at Sunday's cabinet meeting. "Maybe we can hope for a Hanukkah miracle.”
KAN TV quoted Gantz telling confidants in private conversations that his support for dispersing the Knesset was only intended to prevent elections, not advance them, and if an early election happened, it would be "accidental."
The Knesset House Committee will convene at 10:30 on Monday morning to debate the Knesset dispersal bill that was passed in a preliminary reading in the plenum on Wednesday. The Likud and Blue and White are expected to fight at the meeting over which committee will legislate the bill.  
The bill is not expected to pass into law this week or next week.
KAN Radio reported that Blue and White MKs advised Gantz to wait until just before the December 23 deadline to minimize blame for their party for the early election and to make it clear that the government fell over the budget.
The Finance Ministry released a report on Sunday estimating the government's national deficit for 2020 so far to stand at NIS 136.4 billion, The Jerusalem Post's sister publication Maariv reported. The 2020 cumulative deficit, calculated for the months between and November, amounts to nearly NIS 100 billion more than the 2019 national deficit which was estimated to be NIS 37.3 billion.
A bill intended to cut the salaries of all public sector employees from the president on down was not placed on the government's agenda for Sunday and may not pass into law before the Knesset disperses. The opposition did not accept the explanation that the bill was removed from the agenda, because ministers wanted to rewrite it to include even more senior government officials who make more than MKs.
"It is sad that the government of infighting is incapable of passing even the most trivial bill," Yamina MK Matan Kahana said.  
Celia Jean contributed to this report.