Israel prevents election, delays budget deadline

Lapid: The people of Israel are the losers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz vote for the budget deadline extension bill (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON/YEHONATAN SAMIYEH)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz vote for the budget deadline extension bill
(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON/YEHONATAN SAMIYEH)
The budget deadline extension bill passed just ahead of Monday night's 11:59pm deadline, temporarily ending the political crisis and preventing a November election from being initiated automatically 100 days after the government's formation.
The one change made in the bill was that instead of 100 days, the deadline was extended by 120, ending on December 23. If the budget is not passed by then and an election would be initiated that night, it would take place on March 23, four days before the Passover holiday begins.  
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz both revealed on Monday evening that they had instructed their party's MKs to vote for the bill.
"The last thing Israel needs is an election," Netanyahu said in a video he released.
Gantz responded in a press conference at the Knesset on Monday evening that he had done the same with his Blue and White MKs. He pleaded with Netanyahu to end his political battles.
"If your goal is cooperation to help the citizens of Israel, my hand remains extended to you," Gantz said in a message to Netanyahu. "But if you want more maneuvers and to harm the rule of law, I will stop you."
Derech Eretz MK Zvi Hauser, whose compromise proposal passed, expressed satisfaction that he had "stopped the craziness and prevented elections again."
Negotiations between Likud and Blue and White on an agreement hit an impasse on Monday afternoon hours ahead of the deadline to pass the bill. Likud and Blue and White haggled over esoteric procedural tactics that could give one side or the other an edge in control over law enforcement appointments.
The key roles in dispute are: the police chief, the state attorney and eventually in 2022, the attorney-general. While it is too late for these appointments to impact the issue of whether Netanyahu is indicted, the officials appointed to these roles may have crucial authority over whether he goes to jail.
In addition, these officials can have influence over a range of other legal issues impacting Netanyahu, Gantz and key Netanyahu coalition partners, such as Shas party leader Arye Deri and United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman.
The Likud released a statement attacking Blue and White, accusing the party of reneging on Hauser's compromise proposal. Among the Likud's complaints about Blue and White was that they were not permitting the formation of a committee on key appointments to top posts with an equal number of Likud representatives. The Likud said that Blue and White was also trying to define the budget as a two-year budget, even though the Likud disagreed. The Likud accused Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi of being behind the problems.
"While Blue and White of Gantz agreed to the compromise, Blue and White of Ashkenazi is driving the state to elections," a Likud spokesperson said.
Blue and White responded by urging Netanyahu to keep his promise to the public to have a unity government that would take care of coronavirus and security.
"Any last minute attempts by Likud to manipulate the appointment of a state’s attorney or attorney general will be rejected out of hand," the party said.
Hauser lamented that Likud and Blue White were interpreting his compromise differently to suit their needs instead of reaching an agreement.
"If they want to agree, it can be done easily," Hauser told The Jerusalem Post. "I am not trying to land on Mars here."
The Knesset Finance Committee passed Hauser's budget deadline extension bill at 5am Monday morning after eight hours of debating.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said after Netanyahu and Gantz spoke that the "biggest losers tonight are the citizens of Israel, who have been left with no budget, no plan to deal with unemployment by their disconnected government that does not stop fighting."
In a meeting of his Yesh Atid-Telem faction on Monday, Lapid said the budget deadline extension bill is proof that Netanyahu's term until now has been unsuccessful.
"For 100 days Netanyahu failed," Lapid said. "He failed in his management of the economy, failed in his management of the government and so today he's getting a prize – another 120 days of failure. Another 120 days without a budget."
Lapid said that during an extreme health and economic crisis, it was wrong of the government to delay the budget's passage by 120 days. But he said Netanyahu did accomplish one thing this term.
"He's managed to destroy poor Blue and White, who made the mistake of believing him, of thinking he cares about something other than himself," Lapid said. "They signed an agreement meant to fix the fact that Netanyahu ignored the previous agreement they signed with him. They forgot the first rule of partnership: If your partner cheated you once, he'll cheat you again."
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman lashed out at Gantz.
"He has proven to be more Chamberlain than Chamberlain," Liberman said. "He will end up with both elections and shame and will be erased from the political history of the State of Israel."
Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai announced on Monday that whenever elections will be initiated, he will run. 
"If there will be elections, I will run, because I cannot tolerate it anymore," he said. "The time has come for a healing in Israeli society. I could no longer stand aside."

Yonah Jeremy Bob and Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.