New Israeli Elections in Offing as Gantz Says Blue and White Will Vote to Dissolve Knesset
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz — head of the centrist Blue and White party — announced on Tuesday that his party would vote in favor of a bill to dissolve the Knesset and go to new elections, blaming his coalition partner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the political impasse that has led to this point.
Netanyahu — the leader of the right-wing Likud party — and Gantz joined forces in a unity government earlier this year after Gantz broke up the original Blue and White alliance with Yair Lapid, saying he thought unity was necessary due to the coronavirus crisis.
Under the coalition agreement, Netanyahu would yield the prime minister’s chair to Gantz next year in a rotation agreement, though few believed he would follow through on this.
In recent weeks, the coalition has been lurching toward crisis because of an inability to approve the 2020-2021 government budget.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Gantz said that unless Netanyahu allows the budget to pass by Wednesday, his party would back the bid to disperse the Knesset being promoted by Lapid, who is now the opposition leader.
Noticeably angry during his remarks, Gantz blasted Netanyahu, charging the prime minister had “decided to dismantle the government and drag the State of Israel to elections.”
“The way he chose is by not approving the budget for the State of Israel,” Gantz added.
“Netanyahu likes to compare us to the enlightened of the world,” he said. “Show me another country where the prime minister prevents the approval of a budget. … Where does this happen? In Sweden? In Norway?”
Gantz also criticized Netanyahu for blocking the approval of the budget despite the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, saying, “Millions of citizens are heartbroken at the destruction of their lives, families are struggling for survival, and more citizens are being thrown into distress and poverty.”
He did, however, leave the door open for Netanyahu to avoid elections, saying, “Bring the budget to the government for approval immediately. Bring the unity you talk about only in front of the cameras. If you act without tricks and manipulations, there will be no elections in March.”
In what appeared to be the first salvo of his election campaign, Gantz declared, “If Netanyahu does force elections on us, I will fight for a broad government with the real unity that is so necessary at this time.”
Shortly before Gantz’s press conference, Netanyahu posted a video online, in which he said, “This is not the time for elections, this is the time for unity,” and accused Blue and White of forming “a government within the government.”
“They constantly challenged us and violated coalition agreements,” he asserted.
“Benny, what needs to be done now is to make a U-turn away from politics towards the citizens of Israel. That’s what needs to be done now and I ask you to do it,” Netanyahu implored.