In an apparent potential breakup with the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Benny Gantz announced on Tuesday that his party, Blue and White, would vote on Wednesday in favour of dissolving the Israeli parliament - the Knesset.
Gantz's Tuesday announcement sets the stage for another early election in Israel, as Netanyahu has refused to pass a budget and renew the coalition's power-sharing deal.
On Wednesday, the vote will take place on the Yesh Atid opposition party's bill to dissolve the Knesset that was proposed earlier in the month by party leader Yair Lapid amid the joint government's failure to agree on a budget. The squabble inside the Gantz-Netanyahu coalition comes as the Defence Minister insists on an emergency budget for two years, and the PM's reluctance and delaying tactics.
"Blue and white will vote tomorrow for the dissolution of the Knesset", Gantz stated. "Netanyahu did not lie to me - he lied to you. To all citizens of Israel. Millions of citizens are heartbroken in the face of the destruction of their lives, families are struggling for their existence and at this time, the State of Israel has no budget. It is an unforgivable economic attack. If there was no trial - there was a budget".
כחול לבן תצביע מחר בעד פיזור הכנסת.— בני גנץ - Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) December 1, 2020
לא לי שיקר נתניהו – לכם הוא שיקר.
לכל אזרחי ישראל.
מיליוני אזרחים עומדים שבורי לב מול הרס מפעל חייהם, משפחות נאבקות על קיומן ובעת הזו, מדינת ישראל ללא תקציב.
זה פיגוע כלכלי בלתי נסלח.
אם לא היה משפט - היה תקציב. pic.twitter.com/nDxX6ln27S
Earlier, Netanyahu tweeted that "this is not the time for elections, this is the time for unity", accusing the opposition of trying to "drag the State of Israel into unnecessary elections".
"We will vote tomorrow against elections and for unity. I call on Benny Ganz to do the same", the Israeli PM tweeted. "The State of Israel does not need elections now. We have a real effort to reduce the disease, bring vaccines to all Israeli citizens and bring more financial assistance to businesses and citizens. Need to do it all together".
אנחנו נצביע מחר נגד בחירות ובעד אחדות. אני קורא לבני גנץ לעשות את אותו הדבר. מדינת ישראל לא צריכה בחירות עכשיו.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 1, 2020
יש לנו מאמץ אמיתי להוריד את התחלואה, להביא חיסונים לכל אזרחי ישראל ולהביא עוד סיוע כלכלי לעסקים ולאזרחים.
צריך לעשות את כל זה ביחד. pic.twitter.com/YcYEzydDnn
As Gantz insists that Netanyahu pass the 2021 budget shortly after the 2020 budget under the conditions of the power-sharing agreement, the sitting Israeli PM claimed that he never committed to do so during deal negotiations.
“We agreed and passed a law that the 2020 budget will be approved in December and, in parallel, we are already preparing the 2021 budget,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Radio Kol Barama. “That’s the law that they approved, and Blue and White is denying it. They need to stop being the opposition within the government.”
Gantz demanded that Netanyahu prepare and submit the 2021 budget to the Knesset for approval no later than the beginning of December. In a series of tweets, the Defence Minister labeled his coalition partner "a promise-breaker".
Early elections, as Gantz hinted, could be avoided if Netanyahu brings the 2021 budget for a Cabinet vote during the next three weeks, but many believe that the Israeli PM is unlikely to take those steps.
Wednesday's vote on the Knesset dissolution is preliminary, as two more readings would have to take place for the bill to be passed.
Netanyahu and Gantz formed a joint government in May, following three elections resulting in failures to form a coalition, with - among other points - a condition that Gantz becomes the country's prime minister, instead of Netanyahu, in 2021.