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Trying the last moments to avoid new elections in Israel

Representatives of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) are busy Monday trying to reach a compromise at the last minute, to avoid holding a fourth election in less than two years.

The Knesset will be dissolved if lawmakers are unable to agree on last year’s budget bill by midnight on Tuesday, and elections are called in March.

Close consultations are taking place with the start of the vaccination campaign against the Covid-19 epidemic, with 370,000 cases of the disease recorded, including more than 3 thousand deaths.

The dispute here is not between a government and the opposition, but between the partners in the “unity and emergency” government that was formed in the spring by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former electoral rival Benny Gantz.

Gantz, a former army general, accused Netanyahu of refusing to approve the budget for personal political reasons, and insisted that the coalition must pass a two-year budget, including 2021, under the pretext that Israel needs stability after the worst political crisis in its history and the destruction of its economy due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Netanyahu has refused to endorse the 2021 budget, and his opponents have said it is an open political tactic to keep the alliance unstable, making it easier for him to overthrow the government before he is forced to hand power to Gantz.

Late Sunday, the Blue and White coalition said it had reached a compromise with Likud to gain more time. The deadline for approval under the agreement on the 2020 budget will be postponed to December 31, and the government will then have until January 5. / January to approve the 2021 budget.

Gantz’s party (right) may win according to the polls only a few seats if elections are held (Al-Jazeera)

Not a politician

Both Netanyahu and Gantz have reasons to avoid new elections, as Israel is still suffering from the economic crisis caused by the epidemic, while Gideon Sa’ar, the influential figure in the right wing of Likud, left, to form his party in defiance of Netanyahu.

Recent polls indicate that Sa’ar could undermine significant support for Netanyahu if elections are held soon.

A vote in March would force Netanyahu to campaign while he appears before the court, which will hold three sessions a week to stand trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Investigators accuse Netanyahu of seeking supportive media coverage for him in the best-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, in Israel.

As for Gantz, it appears that his political opportunities have severely diminished as the “Blue and White” alliance he was leading collapsed in April with his former ally Yair Lapid when he decided to strike a deal with Netanyahu. Lapid is considered a “no future” party, now the opposition leader in the Knesset.

Recent polls indicate that Gantz’s party will win only a handful of seats if elections are held soon, and any further concessions by Gantz to Netanyahu are likely to wipe out what remains of his credibility as a political alternative.

However, according to the right-wing columnist Ben Dror of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper Tuesday, “Gantz may not act in his personal political interest,” adding, “We all have to realize that Gantz is trying to spare Israel another unnecessary election.”

He also said that Gantz is “not a politician,” explaining that he “knows that defeat awaits him,” adding that it is precisely for this reason, as a loser, that he can act on the basis of what is best for Israel.

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