The Knesset plenum on Wednesday approved the preliminary reading of a bill to postpone the deadline by which the parliament must pass a state budget or be dissolved.
The deadline would be extended from Aug. 24 to Dec. 3. delaying the possibility of a fourth election cycle in less than two years.
The bill, sponsored by Derekh Eretz MK Zvi Hauser and Communication Minister Yoaz Handel, members of the government coalition, would give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz more to negotiate an agreement on a budget.
Presenting the bill in the Knesset, Hauser said: "Just 88 days ago we all stood here and pledged to put our differences behind us. We made a pledge to the citizens of Israel to stand together against the pandemic, a challenge Israel has never faced before. It seems that only now, in August, we begin to understand the real scope of this challenge."
Netanyahu and Gantz are at loggerheads over the format of the state budget, which must be passed by August 25 or the government will automatically fall and elections called.
Gantz is insisting that the government draft a two-year budget, as laid out in the coalition agreement he signed with Netanyahu in April.
The prime minister, however, is adamant on a one-year budget, which critics say is a way of bringing down the government without triggering a clause in the coalition agreement that would make Gantz prime minister should Netanyahu call for fresh elections.
The prime minister argues, however, that the current coronavirus crisis makes it hard to create a long-term fiscal plan.
Political observers say Netanyahu's insistence on a one-year budget may also stem from his reluctance to concede the role of the prime minister to Gantz after the agreement signed between the two includes a rotation at the top job.
First published: 13:52 , 08.12.20