ההכנות אמש לפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסת
Preparing for the reopening of the Knesset under coronavirus guidelines
Photo: The Knesset
Preparing for the reopening of the Knesset under coronavirus guidelines

Knesset returns with renewed political budget battle

Likud and Blue & White again at odds over passage of state budget, with Netanyahu's party refusing to approve fiscal plans for 2020, 2021 simultaneously in what is believed to be bid to call fresh elections without violating coalition deal and putting Gantz in PM's seat

Moran Azulay |
Published: 10.12.20 , 15:59
Israel's lawmakers returned to the Knesset in Jerusalem for the start of the winter session, with battle lines already being drawn over the state budget and the ever-present threat of another round of elections.
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  • To mark the event, which was being held under the current coronavirus mitigation restrictions, a special stage was built for speakers, in order to uphold social distancing between speech-makers, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and President Reuven Rivlin.
    ההכנות אמש לפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסתההכנות אמש לפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסת
    Preparing for the reopening of the Knesset under coronavirus guidelines
    (Photo: The Knesset)
    In addition, Knesset staff also set out prominent markings on the floor of the plenum to ensure that the MKs observe the directives.
    Over the last few days, warring coalition partners Likud and Blue & White have revived their row over the most pressing issue facing the government - the urgent need to approve the state budget for 2020 and 2021.
    While Blue & White insists on approving both state budgets at once, given the tight deadline and the fact that 2020 is close to ending, Likud is demanding two separate votes – one for each year.
    Political pundits believe that Likud is refusing to unite the votes in order to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his party two opportunities – in December, when the 2020 budget has to be passed and again in March, when the 2021 budget must be passed - to dissolve the Knesset and instigate fresh elections, which occurs when the government cannot get its state budget approved.
    Under the terms of the coalition agreement signed by the two parties in April, any move to call fresh elections in any other way would lead to Blue & White leader Benny Gantz taking over as prime minister until the nationwide vote was held.
    A single Knesset vote to approve both annual budgets, which would also ensure the stability of the political system, has been rejected by the Likud and both sides are now digging in.
    בני גנץ בני גנץ
    Blue & White leader Defense Minister Benny Gantz
    (Photo: Avi Moalem)
    "Up to this moment we have done everything we can to enable this government to function and put the good of the state above all else," Gantz told the Blue & White Knesset faction on Monday.
    "We have ignored those who have called us traitors, we have ignored those who have called us weak. This chapter is over and done with, we will no longer keep quiet. There will be no more silence as harm befalls the entire public that has voted for us," he said.
    Opposition Leader Yair Lapid told his Yesh Atid party's Knesset faction that he would put forward a constructive vote of no confidence (which would target the prime minister alone and thereby preserve the government) as soon as the Knesset winter session opened.
    יאיר לפידיאיר לפיד
    Opposition Leader Yair Lapid
    (Photo: AFP)
    "Anyone who does not vote for this proposal is a coward," Lapid said. "I am sorry, but I have no softer word. This government is not capable of leading the crisis. This prime minister has failed to manage the crisis.
    "Blue & White members know that this government has failed," he said.
    "This is not a political statement. The morbidity proves it. Unemployment proves it. The resignations of all the senior Treasury officials [prove it]. The public has no confidence in the government. There is no chance that this government will protect our health and the economy properly. [Blue & White leaders Benny] Gantz and [Gabi] Ashkenazi are saying it aloud. [Yamina leader Naftali] Bennett says it aloud. [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman] says it aloud."
    Lapid added: "One vote, in two hours, and tonight Netanyahu would no longer be prime minister. No elections, no mess. [Blue & White's] Gantz would remain defense minister, Gabi Ashkenazi will would remain foreign minister, [Avi] Nissenkorn would remain justice minister. [Liberman] and Bennett would be senior ministers.
    "Is there anyone who doubts that such a government could better handle the coronavirus? We will pass a budget. We will lift the closure. There will be immediate compensation for businesses. We will return to the traffic light plan" of designating communities by the level of infection there.
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