Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday brushed aside a proposed bill backed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz to delay the deadline for approving the state budget by 100 days, urging the coalition to immediately approve a one-year outline that will only run until the end of 2020.
Gantz said Monday that the bill, which would end the immediate threat of the government falling by the end of the month, could be passed within 24 hours.
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.
On Sunday night, MKs Yoaz Handel and Zvi Hauser of the Blue & White faction's Derekh Eretz party, proposed the motion as a possible lifeline for the government to not automatically disassemble on Aug. 25 and cause a snap election, Israel's fourth in less than two years.
"We can complete the process within 24 hours: The government will approve tonight a government bill to amend the deadline to submit the budget, Knesset will approve it and within 24 hours, without any trick and schticks, it will also be approved on second and third reading," Gantz told a faction meeting of his Blue & White party Monday.
"It's possible, it's constitutional, it's right, it's moral," Gantz said. "I have promised the people of Israel to see their good above all, and I call on you to do it together for the people. There is no other solution."
Blue & White officials later confirmed that such flash legislation was legal and feasible. But the prime minister stuck to his guns on a budget until the end of the year.
“We don’t need 24 hours, we don’t even need 24 minutes. We have a prepared and adapted budget to the coronavirus, exactly what Israeli citizens need today,” Netanyahu said at a faction meeting of his own Likud party.
He did not directly address the timeline for passing the bill to delay the deadline, which he had earlier in the day welcomed.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid bashed Gantz' suggestion, claiming it works against the interests of Israeli citizens.
Yisrael Beytenu Chairman MK Avigdor Liberman said during his own faction meeting that his party would vote against the motion.
"What the State of Israel needs is a budget, not delays," said Liberman.
He also lambasted fellow lawmakers who publicly claim to focus on matter pertaining to the pandemic and the economic upheaval, but in practice were pushing legislation on unrelated issues.