The week that could last 22 months

Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson vowed to bring more coalition MKs to defect and oppose the 'minimarkets bill.'

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni  (photo credit: DEGEL HATORAH)
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni
(photo credit: DEGEL HATORAH)
In Israeli politics, every week is important, but for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the week ahead is especially critical.
If everything goes according to plan, this week could guarantee Netanyahu another 22 months in office. He could end up completing his term, and the next general election could be held on time, on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.
But if there are significant problems this week, Netanyahu’s coalition could fall apart and elections could still be held this spring.
The first challenge of the week is set for Monday, when the controversial “minimarkets bill” comes up for a vote. This was the bill that was so critical to Shas leader Arye Deri that he asked Likud MK Yehudah Glick to leave his shiva house and come vote the day after burying his wife, Yaffa.
Glick will be done sitting shiva by Monday, and Religious Services Minister David Azoulay (Shas), who has been ill, announced that he will leave his hospital bed to vote. Nonetheless, more and more coalition MKs have come out against it, so the bill’s passage is still in doubt.
Asked whether he had the majority needed to pass the bill, new coalition chairman David Amsalem did not sound confident, telling The Jerusalem Post Saturday night: “I don’t know. Wait until Monday and see.”
Amsalem’s predecessor, MK David Bitan, never needed to scrounge for votes the way Amsalem has. Last week, Netanyahu himself acted as coalition chairman, calling ministers and MKs to vote for Yisrael Beytenu’s bill regarding the death penalty.
Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson vowed to bring more coalition MKs to defect and oppose the minimarkets bill.
“I have more cards to play, and we intend to win the game,” Hasson told the Post.
Once the minimarkets bill passes, attention will turn to a bill that would permit United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman to return to the Health Ministry and run it as a deputy minister two months after quitting to protest railway repairs done on Shabbat. That bill is expected to pass into law Wednesday.
But what really matters for the government’s longevity is Thursday’s first vote in the cabinet on the 2019 state budget. Despite bad blood between them, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon have been working closely to complete the proposal.
Passing budgets has caused coalition headaches in the past, and this time could be no exception. But none of the parties in the coalition want early elections, so it might be easier this time than in previous years.
Having a budget prepared this far before the end of a government’s term is unprecedented. The political quiet that it could usher in could be unprecedented as well.
But then again, Netanyahu’s criminal investigations will still hover over the government’s future like this weekend’s rain clouds. Even though police recommendations on the prime minister’s cases have been postponed until the spring, they are not going anywhere.
The probes ensure that no matter what happens during this critical week, the date of the next election will remain unpredictable.