‘Tis the season: Israeli Government to dissolve at midnight
Dec 22, 2020 | Ahron Shapiro
Israel will be headed for its fourth election in the past two years as a last-ditch Knesset vote that would have held the National Emergency Unity Government together failed in a dramatic fashion late last night, 49-47.
The Israeli Government had been unable to pass a budget, and by law, elections are called automatically if such a situation persists long enough. The tripwire will be activated at midnight tonight, Israel time. An election date has been tentatively set for March 23, although that can still be changed.
Israel’s short-lived Government was built upon an unprecedented coalition agreement, signed back in April, whereby Israel would create the legal basis for having a prime minister and an alternate prime minister. Under the agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of the Likud party would lead the country for the first half of the government’s first three years, and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz would be Alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister. After 18 months, the agreement provided for a rotation and Netanyahu and Gantz would switch jobs. However, the government’s failure to pass a budget means that Israel will go to elections without Gantz having the opportunity to serve as prime minister.
On December 8, Gideon Sa’ar, a rival of Netanyahu’s from within the Likud, announced that he was breaking away from the Likud to form the New Hope party, saying that the Likud had abandoned its principles to become a rubber stamp for Netanyahu. It was expected that other members of the Likud would follow Sa’ar into New Hope, and last night the Jerusalem Post reported that MKs Michal Shir and Sharren Haskel would be among them.
Facing criticism for its handling of the Coronavirus pandemic and political paralysis due to infighting, both the Likud and Blue and White have suffered in recent polls. Gantz, who has been tarred with the sin of gullibility for trusting Netanyahu to uphold the rotation agreement, may not have a political future, the Times of Israel’s David Horowitz writes.
According to the latest poll by Israel’s Channel 13 publicised on December 20, the bloc of parties who no longer support Netanyahu as prime minister would receive 64 seats if elections were held now, while a Netanyahu-led bloc would receive only 56 seats, far short of a 61-seat majority.
However, the political map has been a little harder to read lately since the Ra’am party – part of the Joint List of mostly Arab parties, has expressed willingness to work with Netanyahu, with its leader Mansour Abbas saying in a recent interview that “the Arab parties’ [adversarial] relationship with the government was dysfunctional and not in the interest of the Arab public.”