Photo: Flash90

Israel delays budget to avoid snap election

Israel’s Members of Knesset (MKs) enacted new legislation to postpone a critical vote on the state budget just hours before deadline to do so expired at midnight last night. The decision narrowly averted impending dissolution of the Parliament and subsequent holding of yet another round of national elections.

Wide-ranging gaps have challenged the prolonged viability of the national unity government. The coalition agreement signed between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz had alleviated the political limbo plaguing the country since 2018.

However, in recent weeks, Prime Minister Netanyahu sought to alter that pact by reducing the agreed-upon duration of the state budget from two years to just a single year. Gantz had vehemently rejected the move, intent on upholding the deal which convinced him to join Netanyahu’s government.

And while they failed to reach consensus on the matter, both leaders realized whichever side was blamed by the public for forcing the state into another round of elections – at a time of domestic distress amid the coronavirus pandemic and its dire economic ramifications – would risk retention of power. Both the Premier and Alternate Premier therefore undertook efforts until the last moment of last night’s vote to distance themselves from being perceived as responsible.

“I will continue to do the right thing to prevent the elections which we do not need, and I hope that others will do the same,” stated Netanyahu. Echoing that sentiment, Gantz said, “Heaven forbid that we go to elections now, blood will be spilled on the streets. So now, at this hour, I will not let anyone threaten the citizens of Israel with elections.”

Last night’s vote by the Knesset delayed approval of the state budget until 23 December 2020.