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November 11, 2020 10:18 am

Israel ‘on the Verge of Elections’ Over Budget Issue, Warns Gantz

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Benny Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White party, speaks during a swearing-in ceremony at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, May 17, 2020. Photo: Adina Valman / Knesset Spokesperson’s Office / Handout via Reuters. – As Israel’s coalition partners continue to wrangle over the matter of the state budget, Blue and White leader Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned on Tuesday that time is running out to resolve the issue without an election.

“The hourglass is running out. No one knows when the last grain of sand will drop, but we are really on the verge. If we don’t pass a budget and don’t have a functioning government, it looks like we’ll go to elections,” said Gantz during a tour of Jerusalem.

The defense minister added that he had joined the government to avoid sending the country back to elections, and that that outcome could still be avoided.

Israel has been operating without a national budget for almost a year, a situation Gantz’s party wishes to end promptly. The Blue and White leader had previously vowed to dissolve the government if a budget for 2021 wasn’t passed by the end of October.

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In a Knesset plenum speech an hour earlier, Gantz said, “We’re talking loftily about peace with countries in our region. Now it’s time to talk about peace among ourselves. The citizens of Israel are watching us, asking the government to reconcile, asking for a functioning government that will serve them during the worst crisis that has befallen us in recent decades, [asking for] a government with permanent officials, a long-term economic plan, in which people work together.”

Addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly, the former IDF chief of staff said, “You and I both know very well that the Treasury already has a budget for 2021 nearly ready, and I will not lend my hand to keeping it from the people of Israel. We both know that the clock is running out. You have the ability to avoid an economic and social disaster and do the right thing for the citizens of Israel.”

A senior Likud official said in response to Gantz’s comments that “Blue and White are dragging Israel into a needless election. Instead of showing responsibility, uniting in the fight against COVID and saving lives, Blue and White continues to run a government within the government. Blue and White are trampling all over the coalition agreement on the matter of appointments and refusing to accept [MK Zvi] Hauser’s compromise on the budget, which could be passed within two weeks. It’s time for Blue and White to work on behalf of the people, not the polls.”

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