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Netanyahu Discards Defense Minister Gantz’s Call To Delay 2020 Budget…Israel Moves To Possible 4th Election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right)
Image by US Department of State and ראובן קפוצ’ינסקי

After three subsequent parliamentary elections this year alone, the Israeli people could be dragged back to the polls despite woes of a crashing economy due to the Chinese coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic among other factors of instability.

On Monday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz of the centrist-liberal Blue and White party implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chairman of the conservative Likud party to pass a bill extending the deadline for the Israeli national budget.

“The back-and-forth came after Likud said it would back the Derech Eretz faction’s bill to push off the August 25 deadline to pass a budget by 100 days. Netanyahu’s party, however, only pledged to support the proposed legislation in its preliminary and first readings, not the second and third readings it must clear to become law, prompting speculation that the move was a ploy,” wrote Times of Israel.

Despite Netanyahu’s initial backing of a budget delay, the Likud party is looking for a budget solely for the year of 2020 while the Blue and White party looks to establish a long term 2020/2021 budget.

Pundits assert that Likud’s support for the preliminary and first, not the second or third readings of the proposed budget is a ploy to force a fourth round of elections this year in an effort to prevent a transition of power to the Defense Minister.

On the contrary, Netanyahu said that a bill alone for the current year would help streamline the response to the Coronavirus.

“Denying he is pushing for an election, Netanyahu argues that an annual budget would allow the government to stream money immediately to battle the coronavirus and that a longer-term budget would include spending cuts,” Reuters stated.

Formed in April, Israel has maintained a “national emergency government” throughout the duration of the pandemic. This dual coalition government led by Netanyahu and opposition leader Gantz reversed three consecutive parliamentary elections of stalemate dominating Israeli politics.

Defense Minister Gantz championed the avoidance of a fourth election when the coalition government was established. Nonetheless, as of late the temporary government could be on the verge of collapse as both major parties cannot agree on budget terms.

“‘We prevented a fourth election,’ Gantz tweeted Monday evening after the announcement of an agreement, adding, ‘We will safeguard the democracy, we will fight the coronavirus and we will take care of all the citizens of Israel,'” quoted CNN.

Once seen as a model nation combatting the Covid-19 pandemic due to the early closure and shut down of public gatherings, Israel’s pandemic situation took a dark turn as many state the government was not ready for a resurgence of cases.

The failure of the national government to deal with a second wave went as far to push head of Israel’s public health service Siegal Sadetzki to resignation.

“Despite systematic and repeated warnings through various channels, and discussions in several forums, we are watching with frustration as the hourglass of opportunities runs low,” Sadetzki said, quoted The Daily Beast.

With an economy already predicted to contract 6% this year and unemployment being above 21%, if a budget is not established by August 25 a ballot will be automatically ordered pushing Israel into further turmoil, Reuters wrote.

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