Hours after Knesset passed the preliminary reading of a bill to dissolve itself and hold early elections, an apparently irritated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening lambasted the heads of other major political parties and even accused coalition Defense Minister Benny Gantz of being in the thrall of opposition politicians.
The Knesset on Wednesday afternoon approved the preliminary vote on a bill to dissolve itself, threatening to plunge Israel into its fourth election in less than two years.
The bill, which passed by 61 votes to 54, requires three additional successful readings in the Knesset before it passes and new elections must be called, giving coalition leaders a chance to resolve their differences that for now are centered around the state budget.
Taking the podium in a televised address from Knesset, Netanyahu said: "The nation of Israel wants vaccinations, not voting."
"To my regret, Benny Gantz is being dragged in the wake of [Yair] Lapid and [Naftali] Bennet," he said - referring to the heads of opposition parties Yesh Atid-Telem and Yamina, respectively.
Netanyahu devoted most of his statement to listing accomplishments in the battle against the coronavirus and other diplomatic and defense achievements.
He did, however, urge Gantz to rethink his support for dissolving Knesset.
"We have to put politics aside, there will be enough time for that and we need to act together for the citizens of Israel," he said.
"Gantz needs to put the brakes on and stop this deterioration into elections and these attacks. We need to behave differently.
"If Blue & White stop the disillusion of Knesset, there will be unity, but that cannot happen if Blue & White for a government within the government, opposition within the coalition."
Blue & White said in response said: "Netanyahu, we're done with the manipulations. Your long campaign of deceit and lies is over. Now it's your actions that matter. The damage you're inflicting on the people of this country, in the throes of an economic, medical, and social crisis, as so many challenges loom, suggest that you have lost it. We all know the truth. You do too. If it weren't for your trial, there would be a budget. If it weren't for your trial, there would be government appointments. If it weren't for your trial, there would be unity. The responsibility is yours and yours alone."