Netanyahu warns elections could be on the way

Gantz reportedly still considering giving in to the prime minister's demands.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at his office in Jerusalem on September 13. (photo credit: YOAV DUDKEVITCH/REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at his office in Jerusalem on September 13.
An early election will take place if Blue and White does not start compromising soon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday at Ben-Gurion Airport, where he greeted a flight from the United Arab Emirates.
"If we see a different approach from Blue and White, and they start cooperating instead of acting like a government within a government, we can continue working together," Netanyahu said.  "If not, I think everyone would understand that it would unfortunately lead to elections. I would prefer that we unite and deal with bringing peace and vaccines and helping the economy."
Blue and White responded to Netanyahu by saying: "It is Netanyahu who is breaking agreements, preventing appointments and not enabling the passing of the budget for two months for political reasons. That is why every poll shows the public blames Netanyahu by a wide margin for the elections that are expected.
"They know the truth. If he did not have a trial, there would be a budget," the party said.
A source close to Netanyahu said the Knesset is very likely to pass a bill to disperse itself next Wednesday and initiate early elections in March. The source said the Likud would not back the move, but that he expected Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to support Yesh Atid-Telem’s Knesset dispersal bill and enable it to pass.
The coalition agreement states that if Blue and White overthrows the government, Netanyahu will remain prime minister in a caretaker government, but if Likud initiates an election, Gantz would become caretaker prime minister.
“The chances of elections being initiated next week are very high, unless Blue and White decides to compromise and give up their demand to immediately pass the 2021 state budget,” the source close to the prime minister said.
A Panels Politics poll taken Wednesday and Thursday for The Jerusalem Post and Maariv found that if elections were held now, the Likud would win 29 seats and Naftali Bennett's Yamina 23. Last week, the same pollster found the gap was 27 to 24.
The remaining results of this week's poll were 19 seats for Yesh Atid-Telem, 11 for the Joint List, nine for Blue and White, eight each for Yisrael Beytenu and Shas, seven for United Torah Judaism and six for Meretz. The poll of 548 respondents representing a statistical sample of the Israeli population, had a margin of error of 4.3%.
KAN Radio reported on Thursday that Netanyahu has been meeting Likud MKs and telling them that there is no chance for a compromise on Gantz’s demand to pass the 2021 budget by the end of the year. The report said the prime minister told Likud MKs that he believes early elections will happen but that "he is trying to push them off as long as he can.”
Sources close to Netanyahu denied the report, which no MK was willing to confirm.
“He never said any such thing,” a source close to Netanyahu said.  
A Blue and White spokeswoman reacted to the KAN report by saying that “it proves who cares about passing the budget and who is looking for elections.” She said if Israelis go to the polls again, they would blame Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz.
“The budget is ready and is being held back for political reasons,” she said. “The foot dragging of Netanyahu and Katz is an attack on the economy in order to drag the country to elections. The elderly, the handicapped, the unemployed and business owners going bankrupt don’t need to pay the price for the personal political considerations of the prime minister.”
Ma’ariv reported on Thursday that behind the scenes, Gantz is still seriously considering compromising on the budget, on condition that the Likud commits on paper to pass it into law by March. That would guarantee that the rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office that is set for next November would take place, and it would prevent Netanyahu from initiating an election to prevent the rotation from happening.
The Blue and White spokeswoman called the report “very far from the truth.”
“There is no such thing,” she said. “There is no chance of compromising on March. There is no talk of a compromise at all with Likud, especially in March.”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid lamented Gantz’s behavior in an Army Radio interview on Thursday morning.
“I know that in Blue and White they are indecisive about what to do,” he said. “I think the illusions are over. For some reason, Benny Gantz decided to be the last person in the world who believes Netanyahu, but I hope the penny has finally dropped.”