Elections remain ahead despite the budget deadline extension passing

Mutual mudslinging started the moment after the so-called peace was declared, so why should we assume that the election threat is going away?

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: REUTERS)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On Monday, at 9:57 p.m., a loud sigh of relief was heard throughout the country.
A 67-36 majority voted to extend the deadline to pass the national budget, thus preventing an immediate election.
Politicians and commentators explained that the election threat was over and that the chance of a fourth round of elections in a year-and-a-half was now behind us. Life could now go back to normal.
But can it?
Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech Sunday night, when he declared his intention to accept a compromise, nothing has changed in the rhetoric and actions of the leaders of the two main parties.
On Monday night, the same night the amendment to the law passed, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz delivered a fiery speech, calling on Netanyahu to stop his political tricks and focus on solving the major crisis this country faces from the coronavirus pandemic.
Gantz told Netanyahu that it was time to work together, but added: “if you want more maneuvers and to harm the rule of law, I will stop you.”
Netanyahu went right back to his own line of attack – Gantz and his party are failing the government, he said, because they are attacking him. After stating the importance of preventing an election, Netanyahu said: “It is very hard to do, when there are attacks against the prime minister to such a large extent from within the government.”
This mutual mudslinging started the moment after the so-called peace was declared.
So why should we assume that the election threat is going away?
In fact, it is important to note that the Knesset did not pass a budget, it just extended the deadline to pass it, and that the previous problems are still here. Our politicians might have received a 120-day extension, but that same period of time can be used for fighting as well.
It is also hard to see the political benefit for Netanyahu in preventing an election. Keeping the political chaos in the air seems to be more in his interest.
Netanyahu, who initiated this entire saga by trying to breach his agreement with Gantz’s Blue and White Party, actually gained points by “compromising” – which is actually just agreeing to what he had already agreed to when the government was formed in May.
The prime minister used this period of time to show the entire political arena who sets the tone, and who is the person the entire country needs to look up to.
During that period, which included the recent, historic normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates, Netanyahu shrank Gantz to the smallest form a defense minister can be.
Spinning the entire system keeps Netanyahu as the politician the Israeli people perceives as the most suitable for prime minister.
And it worked for him. As The Jerusalem Post’s Gil Hoffman wrote on Thursday, a majority of the public view Netanyahu as being victorious in the recent political battle – despite the fact that he achieved none of his demands: a one-year budget or a foothold in the committee which is supposed to appoint top justice officials.
Maintaining an election atmosphere in the air will give Netanyahu an exit point at the end of December, when he can decide once again to bring down this non-functioning government and go to an election, thereby preventing Gantz from entering the Prime Minister’s Office next November.
And there is another advantage in maintaining chaos. When people talk about politics, or the illegitimacy of the protests against Netanyahu, they forget that the country is being run by a suspected criminal who is standing trial for charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Starting January, Netanyahu will spend three days a week in the courtroom.
The country is already losing the health and economic battles against the coronavirus. This non-functioning government fails in setting a coherent, conclusive plan, with Israel trailing behind most of the Western world.
How will all of this change when we all start feeling an election in the air at the end of December – and when the prime minister will spend much of his time in court?
Sadly, it won’t.