Should Gantz’s threat to go to elections be believed?
He earned the moniker by threatening repeatedly to quit Netanyahu’s government and support initiating an early election before backing down.
By GIL HOFFMAN
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates have given Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz the unflattering nickname “Bluffing Benny.”He earned the moniker by repeatedly threatening to quit Netanyahu’s government and support initiating an early election before backing down.Now Gantz has intensified his threats, telling media that if a state budget for 2021 is not submitted in two weeks, Blue and White MKs will support initiating an election. He said he might back a probe of Netanyahu’s role in the controversial Submarine Affair. He even suggested he would prefer Yamina leader Naftali Bennett as prime minister over Netanyahu.Such threats sound serious because the election could be initiated when Netanyahu is at a weak point in handling the coronavirus crisis. According to a poll taken for Maariv, 54% of the public and 28% of Likud voters want him to leave politics.If polls in the US are proven correct, the day the election is initiated - if Gantz decides to dismantle the government after seeing that no budget is being prepared - could be a day after Netanyahu’s close ally, US President Donald Trump, loses the presidency, which could weaken Netanyahu further. The Israeli election could take place at the beginning of February, days after Netanyahu’s trial intensifies, forcing him to come to court instead of going on the campaign trail.But in the Likud, they are so convinced that Gantz is bluffing again that Finance Minister Israel Katz went on three channels simultaneously Thursday night to announce that the 2021 budget cannot be ready by December, and Gantz would not get his way.“Out of deep concern over their crashing poll numbers and amid internal discord, it’s clear Blue and White is engaging in a strategy of resistance from within the government to try to get back the votes they lost to Yesh Atid,” a source close to Netanyahu said. “This is a fruitless strategy that will only further turn off the public at a time when unity is critical in the fight against corona.”AdvertisementSources close to Gantz said it is time for the Likud to start taking him seriously. Unlike when he threatened Netanyahu before, this time, Gantz is so sick of the way the prime minister is treating him that he is eager to bring him down, they said.Gantz has crossed the Rubicon, and he is ready to join his former allies Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon in the “anyone but Bibi” camp, they said.But he is still giving Netanyahu one more chance to do what Gantz does not believe the prime minister will do: finally facilitate a functioning government that can properly serve the people.“The government has not been allowed to function,” a source close to Gantz lamented. “There is no budget, no real cabinet meetings, no ministerial committee on legislation. If we go to elections, it would be Bibi’s fault, not ours. But if a budget passes, there is no more exit date for Netanyahu to initiate an election, and we can finally start to govern.”Who should be believed? Recent history would indicate that neither side has been particularly adept at keeping its campaign promises, so trusting either of them would be a gamble.Within two weeks it will be clear who played the stronger hand and who folded under pressure.
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