Netanyahu said yesterday at a meeting of the Likud faction: “Everyone understands that at this time in the face of the challenges before us, security and the Corona, there is no reason to go to the polls. Israel does not need elections but it needs a budget sooner.
“We will be able to fulfill the economic plans that the Minister of Finance is working on, inject more and more money into citizens, business owners, jobseekers and incentivize employment. We will pass the budget and continue to work together for the citizens of Israel.”
Netanyahu knows that the state budget cannot be approved by the end of August, ie in less than four weeks, and even before the start of the school year. Nonetheless, it conveys this narrative to win the sympathy of parents who eagerly await the opening of the school year, and to exert public pressure on Ganz. Finance Minister Israel Katz has already announced at the cabinet meeting that if the budget is not approved, it will not be possible to open the school year.
Senior Likud officials say that Netanyahu is not willing to give up approving a one-year budget even at the cost of running for office. In their opinion, it is precisely his declarations against going to the polls that could signal that he intends to bring them forward so that they will be held before the start of his trial.
As of December 6, 2020, when his trial resumes, Netanyahu will have difficulty fighting in three arenas – public, legal and political – when he is required to appear in court three times a week. Netanyahu therefore demands that Magnetz agree to a one-year budget for 2020 only, in order to leave him with the possibility of early elections in mid-2021 if the state budget for next year is not approved by March 31.
Ganz, on the other hand, demands a biennial budget in order to sandal Netanyahu and avoid early elections in light of the budget disapproval. “Going to the fourth election in a year means spending billions on politicians’ billboards,” he told a faction meeting yesterday. “This is national irresponsibility and disregard for the will of the people. Is there anyone who can imagine going to the polls while the IDF and the defense establishment urgently need a budget?”
In blue and white, opinions are divided: party ministers believe that it is possible to compromise and agree to a one-year budget for fear of holding the elections in November when the party shuffles in polls with 9 seats. For them, agreement on a one-year budget will be conditional on Gantz achieving an achievement, such as transferring the powers of handling Corona to the defense establishment.
In contrast to these positions, Ganz and Gabi Ashkenazi insist on approving a biennial budget. They do not seem to really believe Netanyahu and fear that he will continue to manipulate them even if they agree to an annual budget.
Ganz and Netanyahu are trying to pass on to each other the responsibility for going to the polls. “I know Netanyahu not from today. We have many disagreements and also many agreements. I know he is driven by national responsibility, and I am convinced that he will see the public good before his eyes,” Ganz said. According to him, according to the agreement with the Likud, the budget should be by the end of 2021. “If the Likud abides by the agreement, governmental stability will be achieved and economic stability will be guaranteed. We will abide by the agreement in full. I expect everyone to do so.”
Netanyahu and Gantz’s announcements yesterday were at noon when there was an incident on the Lebanese border. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense received regular updates during the faction meeting. For the time being, Israel seems to be on the verge of an election, unless external events such as the worsening security situation in the north of the country or the eruption of the corona succeed in directing politicians to reach an agreement on approving the budget.