Israeli parliament fails to pass budget, setting up snap election
Israel will face its fourth snap election in two years after its parliament missed a Tuesday deadline to pass a budget.
The snap election, which will take place in March, marks the latest development in a two-year-long saga in Israel that has already driven voters to the polls three times as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself embroiled in an ongoing corruption trial.
Despite the shadow of the corruption allegations, Netanyahu has been able to remain in power and ultimately formed a unity government with now-Defense Minister Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White Party, earlier this year.
The current breakdown was fueled by a dispute between Netanyahu and Gantz over the national budget, which is critical to the power-sharing agreement between them that would have ushered Gantz into the role of prime minister in Nov. 2021.
Netanyahu will remain in office at least until a new government is formed after the March election. He’s led Israel since 2009 and served a previous stint as prime minister from 1996-1999.
Netanyahu has been aided by his close relationship with President Trump, which paid substantial dividends for the Jewish state. The White House moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and helped usher in peace deals with four majority Arab nations, helping the prime minister argue that his bond with Washington was key to Israel’s prosperity.
However, the prime minister will have to face off against a new right wing competitor, Gideon Saar, who defected from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and will also have to contend with anger over his handling of the rapidly spreading coronavirus. He will also be running during the new Biden administration, which is not anticipated to be as automatically supportive as the Trump White House and could undercut one of his key arguments for his reelection bid.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz expressed confidence that they would perform well in the March contest.
Netanyahu said he would win based on his “leadership and achievements” and said Likud is the only party big enough to form a coalition without left wing groups. Meanwhile, Gantz tweeted that “Netanyahu is taking us to an election for the sole purpose of not going to jail.”
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