Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his party will back a bill to dissolve the Knesset and send the country into its fourth election in just two years, as a shaky coalition with PM Benjamin Netanyahu continues to unravel.
The minister and lawmaker said on Tuesday that his party, Blue and White, would support an opposition-crafted bill to dissolve parliament, accusing Netanyahu of reneging on a two-year budget plan that he accepted as part of a unity government deal struck earlier this year. Support from Blue and White would provide the votes needed to pass the measure.
“Blue and White will vote tomorrow for the dissolution of the Knesset. Netanyahu did not lie to me – he lied to you,” Gantz said in a tweet, calling the PM’s refusal to pass the budget an “unforgivable economic attack” on Israelis.
Millions of citizens are heartbroken, facing the destruction of their lives; families are struggling for their existence, and at this time the State of Israel has no budget.
Gantz also took aim at the premier’s ongoing corruption cases, which are still winding through the courts, saying the political impasse “is happening for a single reason… Netanyahu is only working to save himself from his trial.” In an explosive announcement last month, Gantz said he would launch a probe into one set of allegations implicating people close to Netanyahu, a purported bribery scheme known as the “submarine affair.” However, the defense minister backed off from the nascent investigation at the request of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who said Gantz’s probe should only come after a criminal inquiry is completed.
After several delays, the next stage of Netanyahu’s corruption trial is set to begin in February, which will see prosecutors present evidence against the prime minister, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases.
Gantz’s pledge to vote for the dissolution of parliament comes after three successive elections in Israel over the last two years, which finally secured a unity government in March, led by Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Blue and White. The coalition was formed on the condition that the premiership would rotate from Netanyahu to Gantz after 18 months, as well as assurances that Likud would back the two-year budget plan now at the heart of the parliamentary dispute.
However, the Blue and White chief said a new election – the country’s fourth since 2019 – could be avoided if Netanyahu agreed to pass a budget before a deadline of December 23. While it remains to be seen whether the two sides will achieve a deal, on Tuesday the prime minister insisted “this is not the time for an election,” pointing to “political and security challenges” Israel is facing.
“Benny, what needs to be done now is to take a U-turn from politics for the benefit of the citizens of Israel,” he added.
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