Israel Sprinting Toward (Yet Another) Unprecedented Political Crisis (with VIDEO)
A fourth election in 19 months seems inevitable for Netanyahu, Gantz
Israel is all but certainly headed for an implausible fourth election in 19 months as the final hours before the government’s official expiration date continued to tick away on Thursday.
While politicians continued to bicker in the Knesset halls, citizens on the streets, across the political spectrum, agreed on one thing – elections now would be catastrophic and unacceptable.
“They have to pull it together, all of them, and do what’s best for the country, not their own interests,” says Amos, a 68-year-old unemployed actor from Jerusalem. “They’re egotistic. Enough is enough.”
Since parliament does not convene over the weekend, the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition government has just over 24 hours to either pass a budget − a highly unlikely scenario − or pass a bill amending a Basic Law and postponing the budget deadline of midnight on Monday.
They have to pull it together, all of them, and do what’s best for the country, not their own interests. They’re egotistic. Enough is enough.
If it fails, the most fragile, dysfunctional and short-lived government in Israel’s history will automatically dissolve, and the country will head to another general election.
“These elections aren’t about any real issues. It’s just disgusting, stinking politics,” says Nati, a 26-year-old student. “I’m not going to vote; it will be mine and my friends’ way to protest, so that we don’t lend a hand to this waste of money.”
Polls show an overwhelming majority in Israel opposes another election, set to be held just seven months after the previous one. Issues like the economic recession and growing health crisis weigh heavily on people’s minds.
Our leaders are dealing in sh*t. Some people haven’t been able to make ends meet for the past six months, and they want to drag us to a fourth election
“We don’t have millions of dollars to spare and to waste on this crap,” says Hila, a 30-year-old resident of the capital, of the pending campaign. “Our leaders are dealing in sh*t. Some people haven’t been able to make ends meet for the past six months, and they want to drag us to a fourth election.”
The consensus in parliament is that the decision rests in the hands of one man alone, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. After failing the previous three rounds to establish a right-wing government, the prime minister, whose trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust is set to resume in January, was finally forced in May to form a unity government with the center-left Blue and White party headed by Benny Gantz.
Yet despite promising to step down from office in November 2021 and hand over the reins to Gantz, Netanyahu seems determined to clinch his desired 61-seat majority for his right-wing bloc, a coalition that most pundits believe will enable him to bypass his legal woes and postpone or cancel his trial.
Recent polls show the public placing most of the blame for another possible election on Netanyahu.
“I think it’s time Bibi understand that he endangers the people of Israel and just step aside,” says Hila. “He should let his second in command in the Likud or somebody else take over and just leave us alone.”
Yet Netanyahu’s poll numbers remain relatively high, as his former main political opponent, Gantz, seems dead in the water after going back on his campaign promise and reluctantly joining the unity government, and losing his center-left voters’ confidence. The opposition is shattered, with several fragmented parties dividing the anti-Netanyahu vote.
I think it’s time Bibi understand that he endangers the people of Israel and just step aside. He should let his second in command in the Likud or somebody else take over and just leave us alone
“Netanyahu is a magician, isn’t he?” smiles Chaim, 70. “Sure, elections are the worst alternative. But I’m voting Binyamin Netanyahu. Always. Everything they accuse him of, it’s all conspiracies and blood libel.”
The current impasse is caused by Netanyahu’s insistence on passing a short-term, three-month budget till the end of 2020, and later on a budget for 2021. The demand constitutes a breach of the agreement signed between the Likud and Blue and White, which called for the passing of a single budget for 2020-2021.
While Netanyahu explains that his two-part framework will allow for alterations and corrections that are sure to be needed as the economic crisis unfolds, the consensus in the financial sector and inside the Finance Ministry is that a long-term budget would afford the country’s markets some much-needed stability.
Netanyahu is a magician, isn’t he? … I’m voting Binyamin Netanyahu. Always. Everything they accuse him of, it’s all conspiracies and blood libel
Netanyahu’s opponents see the prime minister’s plan as a means of guaranteeing himself another point of exit, during the negotiations ahead of the March 31, 2021, deadline for the 2021 state budget, before he is scheduled to leave office and allow Gantz to take over.
If elections are indeed set on Monday night, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister seems poised to clinch a record-extending sixth victory. Yet the dire economic figures and simmering public anger at obtuse politicians may prove to be Netanyahu’s eventual undoing.
He seems determined to find out.