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August 24, 2020 9:36 am

Knesset to Approve Budget Deadline Extension, Averting Government Collapse

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Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issue statements, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, July 27, 2020. Photo: Tal Shahar / Pool via Reuters. – Israel’s Knesset Finance Committee on Monday morning approved a final version of a bill to extend the deadline for parliament to pass a state budget. The new date is Dec. 23, the Knesset said in a statement. The full parliament is due to vote on the bill later Monday.

The previous deadline required passage of the budget by midnight on Monday. Failure to do so would have meant, by law, dispersing the Knesset and calling a new general election.

The last-moment rush of parliamentary activity was made possible on Sunday night when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at a news conference, which aired on Israeli television prime-time newscasts, that in the name of “national responsibility” he would agree to put off the deadline.

“This is a time for unity, not a time for elections,” said Netanyahu.

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According to the prime minister, the extension bill allowed for the “immediate flow of money for the opening of the school year, assistance to the Israeli people, health and in all areas.”

Knesset member and coalition chairman Miki Zohar, of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, told the Finance Committee last week that the prime minister’s support for the effort to delay the budget deadline was contingent upon receiving immediate funding for various educational and socio-economic institutions and programs.

The budget issue represents one of a number of disputes the Likud has waged with its main partner in the government coalition, the Blue and White faction, headed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

After the prime minister’s announcement on Sunday night, Blue and White issued a statement, calling on Netanyahu “to fulfill his pledge—prevent [early] elections,” by working with Gantz’s faction according to the terms of the agreement reached that allowed for the formation of the government in May.

Under the terms of the coalition agreement, Gantz is to replace Netanyahu as prime minister in November 2021.

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