Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party are reportedly considering leaving Israel’s coalition government, a move that would trigger new elections. The centrist party came to an agreement with Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year after three inconclusive general elections in which it fought Likud to a virtual draw. Under the terms of the deal, Gantz is due to replace Netanyahu as prime minister next November. It also stipulated that the government would pass a two-year budget covering 2020 and 2021. But the prime minister is now insisting on separate budgets for 2020 and 2021. Failure to pass a budget would trigger new elections and enable Netanyahu to avoid handing the premiership to Gantz.
On Sunday, Gantz met with his allies to discuss tactics. Gantz reportedly admitted that he expects Netanyahu to break the rotation deal, a view also shared by foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Ashkenazi is said to have urged that the party refuse to cave on the budget, even if it means new elections. But other Blue and White ministers warned that breaking up the government risked Netanyahu remaining in power after the elections at the head of a more right-wing administration. The hard right Yamina party, which refused to join the coalition but was previously allied with Likud, has surged in the polls as Netanyahu’s popularity has fallen sharply amid the fallout from the pandemic. Yamina is now threatening to back opposition leader Yair Lapid’s bid to bring the government down by dissolving the Knesset and calling new elections.
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