As lawmakers block the budget on the brink of snap elections, Israel

Israel appears to be on track for a fourth national election in less than two years, marking the imminent fall of the eight-month-old coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Tuesday, Israeli lawmakers failed to agree on a crucial budget vote, triggering parliament’s dissolution and a snap election in March 2021. By a vote of 49 to 47, the Knesset narrowly rejected the measure, which would have delayed a midnight deadline on Tuesday to approve the state budget for 2020.

In an effort to gain a plurality, Netanyahu officially cast his ballot in favour of the bill, taking part in the debate. Three Blue and White senators, however, defied their party and voted against the measure. The Prime Minister, addressing the Knesset during the long debate, blamed the new round of elections on Defence Minister Benny Gantz.

After three elections held since April 2019, Netanyahu and former opposition leader Gantz formed a coalition government in May, which failed to reach a conclusion. Although the power-sharing arrangement is still under way, Israel’s political commentators have speculated that Netanyahu may not want to hand over power, but rather dismantle the government early on.

In the meantime, on Monday, Netanyahu, who denies allegations of alleged corruption, went to Twitter to say that he does not want elections again. Speaking to the lawmakers, Netanyahu also asserted that instead of holding new elections, the government should keep its attention on combating the Coronavirus pandemic.

In November 2021, as part of their power-sharing arrangement, Gantz will take over the government from Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister for the remainder of the three-year term.Nonetheless, Gantz was unable to persuade Netanyahu to agree on a fiscal budget for 2020 and 2021 that would allow the Prime Minister, in November 2021, to award the Minister of Defense the premiership. If the bill had been approved, the deadline for this year’s budget would have been extended from December 23 to December 31.

Although elections in March will result in a crucial change in the political spectrum of Israel, Netanyahu would be considerably risky, noting that he faces massive criticism over alleged corruption allegations 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, in an effort to renegotiate the coalition agreement with Blue and White, Likud has been keeping up the budget for several months now.

The Israeli gross domestic product is projected to shrink by 4.5% after the economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic, with the unemployment rate remaining at 12.1 percent.