Gantz to Netanyahu: Delay budget deadline within 24 hours

Blue and White: Backing anti-Bibi bill on table. Likud: That would ensure elections

BENNY GANTZ : His government would only have to last until Netanyahu is indicted (photo credit: REUTERS)
BENNY GANTZ : His government would only have to last until Netanyahu is indicted
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz called upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to pass into law a compromise proposal extending the deadline to pass the state budget to within 24 hours.
Speaking to his Blue and White faction meeting in the Knesset, Gantz praised Netanyahu for endorsing the initial readings of the extension bill late Sunday night. But he noted that Netanyahu did not commit to supporting the final readings and passing the bill into law.
“Remove the threat of elections from the public agenda and instead of making them continue to panic, give the people the certainty, security and trust that they deserve," Gantz said in a plea to the prime minister.
Gantz's associates said that if Netanyahu does not take steps toward passing the budget extension into law, "his bluff will be revealed" and helping Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid pass the so-called "Anti-Bibi bill" on Wednesday is still a possibility. The bill would prevent anyone indicted of serious crimes, including Netanyahu, from forming a government.
Responding to Gantz, Netanyahu told his Likud faction that a new state budget could be passed not only within 24 hours but within 24 minutes. He said the Anti-Bibi bill belonged in Iran or North Korea and sources close to the prime minister said the legislation had zero chance of passing into law.
"The only impact of Gantz voting for the bill would be that he would drag Israel to elections," a source close to Netanyahu said.
In a speech in the Knesset plenum, Lapid dared Gantz to support his bill.
"Blue and White, he's playing with you," Lapid said. "Haven't you had enough of being puppets? It's a law that you're signed on to. Your lawyer wrote it. If you want to preserve some of your dignity and still want to call yourselves honest, then come on Wednesday and vote for the law. Pass it and then maybe we can sit and talk about what we do next."
Gantz warned that going to a fourth election in 19 months during health and economic crises could cause a civil war.
"Whoever loves Israel does not take it to elections at this time and whoever cares about Israel will not take steps that will bring about an economic collapse," Gantz said. "Agreements that are not worth the paper they are written on are not real agreements. "Elections now would spit in the face of 9 million Israeli citizens."
The budget extension proposal, sponsored by MK Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz), would postpone the deadline for passing a state budget from August 25 to November. The bill is expected to receive permission from the Knesset House Committee on Tuesday and be brought to a vote in the plenum on Wednesday.
Hauser's colleague, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said they would not enable the formation of a narrow, right-wing government, leaving the compromise as the only option.
"I know the government doesn’t function well enough," Hendel said. "For it to work better, the entire coalition must work on compromises. Elections cause hatred. It is not love at first or second sight but it is the only possible compromise."
In a speech to a Union of Local Authorities conference on Monday, Netanyahu said a functioning government was necessary combat the corona as quickly as necessary.
"When Hauser asked me to give stabilizing the government another chance to help fight the coronavirus, I said I am ready," Netanyahu said. "I think every effort must be made to prevent elections, stabilize the government, fight corona and open the economy."
The prime minister's support came after a conversation with Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) and Hauser.
“This is a very important step of goodwill, but it is far from being a solution to the problem,” Levin told Army Radio on Monday morning.
Finance Minister Israel Katz (Likud) told KAN Radio on Monday morning that even if the deadline for passing the budget is extended, the budget should still be passed as soon as possible, in order to enable the transferring of funds to the school system in time for the start of the school year.
Both Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman announced that their factions would oppose the budget extension proposal.
"Like always, they've decided not to decide," Lapid said. "Instead of passing a budget, they are playing pathetic petty politics at the public's expense."
Responding to a question from The Jerusalem Post about the prime minister's intentions, Lapid said the compromise proposal was an attempt by Netanyahu to mislead the public and he would not end up supporting its final readings and passing it into law.
"This is an attempt by Netanyahu to escape from justice," Lapid said. "He is afraid that the [Supreme Court] will force him to suspend himself when his court case intensifies in January. He is afraid that the courts will put him in jail and this is the only thing that drives him."
Liberman said his party would oppose the proposal, because Israel needs a budget and "this government has no chance of taking Israel out of the mud."