Israel on cusp of fourth national election in two years
Israel headed to its fourth election in two years on Tuesday after an effort to keep the government afloat and push off the automatic dissolution of parliament failed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and Defense Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White party had proposed pushing off Tuesday's deadline by two more weeks in an effort to reach a compromise on the 2020 budget.
Negotiations to bring about a budget compromise between the government's two main parties broke down early Tuesday and the members of the two parties voted against the proposal on a late-night Knesset session. Netanyahu's Likud and Gantz's Blue and White party have been at loggerheads over the national budget issue since forming a unity government in May.
Since the government did not pass the budget by midnight Tuesday, Israeli law stipulates that the Knesset dissolve and triggers snap elections in 90 days. Most avenues to evade that deadline have been closed off. "We do not want elections and we voted against them this evening, but we are not afraid of elections because we will win!" the prime minister wrote on Twitter.
Once the parliament dissolves, Israelis will head to polls in March for the fourth time since 2019, in the midst of COVID-19, economic recession, and while Netanyahu is on trial for various corruption charges. Gideon Saar is challenging Netanyahu from within his own camp and has called for the prime minister's ouster. Netanyahu's party members who rejected the proposal will join ranks with Saar.