Photo: Flash90

Israel Protest/Gov’t discord ongoing

As reported by TV7 earlier this month, a political crisis in Jerusalem has seemingly threatened the unity government’s stability over the state budget.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged his coalition partners – including Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in particular – to pass a state budget which is vital for the sustainability of Israel’s qualitative military edge.

“We must pass a budget quickly in order to meet the needs of the squadrons and of the IDF to provide for our defense and to give us offensive capability,” insisted Netanyahu, adding that “Our ability is very high and needs to be higher still. We do not stop for a moment. At the same time, we are fighting the coronavirus. We are also safeguarding the security of Israel everywhere – near and far.”

The Likud leader has demanded a budget with a duration of one year he claims is mandated to counter economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic. His political partner, former rival Gantz, who heads the Blue and White faction, has insisted on a two-year budget, which in his view is crucial for the country’s long-term stability.

Alternate Premier Gantz called on Netanyahu to avoid further balloting through joint efforts to pass a parliamentary bill to delay the budget deadline for another 100 days to afford both sides time to reach an agreement. In statements directly addressed to the Premier, Gantz called on Netanyahu “to pass a cabinet decision today, that will legally ratify your promise from a day prior, to discuss and approve within 100 days the state budget. Remove the threat of elections from the public’s agenda – so instead of panic, we will grant the public certainty, security and trust.”

Speaking to members of his faction, Gantz said, “Whomever loves the State of Israel, does not force it into elections at this time. Whomever cares for the citizens of Israel should not advance steps which threaten to collapse the economic and health of many of them during a time of crisis.”

The Knesset subsequently heeded that appeal by today approving legislation to postpone passage of the budget for 100 days; effectively granting Netanyahu and Gantz until 3 December to resolve their differences. In accordance with national law, failure by the Knesset to pass the budget within prescribed time limits would trigger automatic dissolution of the government and the holding of a fourth round of national elections in two years.

Such political limbo would cost the state billions of shekels, at a time when the general public faces economic hardship due to an unprecedented unemployment rate of about 21.6%.

An estimated 16,000 citizens demonstrated outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Saturday night against the government’s handling of the financial crisis that emerged following the COVID-19 outbreak. Amid chants of “Change, hope, freedom and livelihood,” the majority called for government reform. Another marginalized group focused protests on Netanyahu’s indictment on a series of corruption charges.  Demonstrator Daniel Goldstein told Reuters that the crowd was “fighting for the future – we want a different future, a future that we can live equally together without hate – and I think this is the reason you don’t hear just one voice here.”