By Israel Hayom, Danielle Roth-Avneri, JNS Staff, and TPS
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that his Blue and White faction will side with the opposition on Wednesday when its motion to dissolve the Knesset comes up for a vote in the plenum, positioning him on a collision course with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and setting off a process that could result in the fourth parliamentary election in four years.
Speaking on Tuesday during a visit at the National Coronavirus Enforcement Authority, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the Likud will vote on Wednesday against the dissolution of the Knesset and “in favor of unity.”
“I call on Benny Gantz to unite and avoid dispersing the Knesset,” Netanyahu declared.
Gantz accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of undermining the unity government Likud and Blue and White had formed earlier this year, which includes a power-sharing agreement that would theoretically make Gantz prime minister starting November 2021.
“I entered this government with a heavy heart but without qualms; I did this after I could not form a government based on my values and worldviews in the wake of three election campaigns, and under the threat of coronavirus that has put our health and the future of our children and the livelihood of so many Israelis in jeopardy,” said Gantz.
The Blue and White leader said that he joined the unity pact because there was no other option, and to stabilize the political system and help address the COVID-19 pandemic, but now Netanyahu has reneged on his part of the deal by refusing to pass a two-year budget that would ensure a rotating premiership.
Gantz said that in light of the prime minister’s conduct, he had no choice but to take action.
“I was well aware of Netanyahu’s record of being a serial violator of his own promises, but I thought that the lives of Israelis were more important and that Netanyahu would rise up to the occasion, but this did not happen,” said Gantz, adding, that Netanyahu did not “mislead me, he misled all Israelis.”
If Gantz supports the dissolution motion on Wednesday, the early election bill is all but guaranteed to move forward. However, with Likud in control of various Knesset committees, this process can be slowed down for weeks, creating room for a compromise to avert an early march to the polls.
Netanyahu called for unity in a statement on Tuesday, saying that this was no time for elections.
“We will vote tomorrow against elections and for unity. I call on Benny Gantz to do the same. The State of Israel does not need elections now,” he said.
Israel was in the midst of a “real effort” to get COVID-19 morbidity under control and secure sufficient vaccines to immunize all Israeli citizens, as well as getting more financial assistance to businesses and citizens, said the prime minister.
“We need to do it all together,” he said.
A bill to disperse the Knesset would require three votes in the Knesset plenum and three votes in the Knesset House Committee to become law. Wednesday’s vote is the initial phase.
From its inception, the government has been squabbling over almost every issue, and the current issue at hand is primarily the timing of the passing of the 2021 budget, though that is just a symptom of the underlying problems.
Most political pundits say that one way or another, Israel is again headed toward the fourth round of elections in a bit over a year’s time.
Polls show that Netanyahu’s Likud is in the lead with about 30 seats while Blue and White has lost most of its power and has about 10 seats. Yamina has jumped up to around 20 seats in the polls.
A version of this article first appeared in Israel Hayom.