Israel on verge of snap election as lawmakers block budget

Israel

Israel appears to be on course for a fourth national election in less than two years marking a likely collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eight-month-old coalition government. Israeli lawmakers failed to agree on a key budget vote on Tuesday, triggering the dissolution of parliament and a snap election in March 2021. The Knesset narrowly rejected the bill by a vote of 49 to 47 that would have deferred a Tuesday midnight deadline for passing the state budget for 2020.

Taking part in the vote, Netanyahu reportedly cast his ballot in favour of the bill in an attempt to win a majority. However, three Blue and White lawmakers defied their party and voted against the bill.Addressing the Knesset during the long debate, the Prime Minister blamed Defence Minister Benny Gantz for the new round of elections.Netanyahu and former head of the opposition Gantz established a coalition government in May after three elections held since April 2019 failed to reach a conclusion.

Even as the power-sharing deal is still under progress, political analysts in Israel have asserted that Netanyahu might not want to hand over power, instead dissolve the government prematurely. Meanwhile, Netanyahu, who denies charges of alleged corruption, took to Twitter on Monday to maintain that he does not want elections again. Speaking to the lawmakers, Netanyahu also asserted that the government should keep its focus on fighting the Coronavirus pandemic, instead of holding fresh elections.

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As part of their power-sharing deal, Gantz would take over the government from Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel in November 2021 for the remainder of the three-year term. However, Gantz has been unable to convince Netanyahu to agree on a fiscal budget for 2020 and 2021 which would enable the Prime Minister to give up the premiership to the defence minister in November 2021. If the bill would have been passed, it would have delayed the deadline for this year’s budget from December 23 to December 31.

While March elections would result in a critical shift in Israel’s political spectrum, it would be significantly risky for Netanyahu, noting that he is facing massive criticism over alleged corruption charges and mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis.Likud and Blue and White have been blaming each other for failure to reach an agreement over the budget. At the same time, Likud has been holding up the budget of several months now in an attempt to renegotiate a coalition deal with Blue and White.In the aftermath of economic repercussions of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Israeli gross domestic product is expected to shrink by 4.5% with the jobless rate standing at 12.1%.

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