Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced he will not seek a November election that would have been initiated automatically on Monday night if the budget deadline extension bill had not passed in the Knesset Finance Committee.
The budget deadline extension bill passed its final readings in the Knesset Finance Committee early Monday, clearing the controversial bill for its remaining votes in the plenum later Monday.
The bill extends the deadline from passing the budget from Monday, which is 100 days since the government’s formation, by an extra 120 days to December 23.
As part of the negotiations, the committee agreed together with the Finance Minister to add NIS 11 billion to the country’s budget.
The overall budget proposal is NIS 411 billion and it will be used to cover projects and programs that have been running since 2019 but were put on hold due to the prolonged budgetary foot-dragging.
Netanyahu said he would accept a compromise proposed by MK Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz) to postpone the budget deadline from Monday to December 3 and freeze political appointments. According to the compromise, Blue and White would honor the coalition agreement and form an appointments committee that includes Likud representatives.
“This is the time for unity, not the time for elections,” Netanyahu said. “Let’s unite and work together. If we act in harmony, the government will last its term “
But Netanyahu did not inform Blue and White about the press conference, which the party’s leaders found out about from the media and admitted they felt “humiliated.”
Ahead of the press conference, Blue and White issued fierce criticism of Netanyahu
“We call upon the prime minister to get in line and come back to seeing the good of the country rather than his own personal good,” the party said in a statement. “While nine million citizens expect unity and to address security needs and the coronavirus crisis, the Likud is preoccupied with political manipulations. They are spitting in the face of the Israeli public out of personal considerations.”
Netanyahu urged Blue and White to stop attacking him. It was a “myth” that he wanted to appoint a police inspector-general or state prosecutor, he said.
The prime minister did inform the heads of United Torah Judaism and Shas ahead of the press conference that he was not going to initiate an election.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid, mocked Netanyahu’s press conference and the bill that would extend the budget deadline.
“Another 100 days without a budget?” he asked on Twitter. “Their compromise is to continue Netanyahu’s utter failure? Schools that won’t open properly, self-employed who won’t get the help they need, ongoing wildly high unemployment? You’re detached, enough!”
The Knesset Finance Committee met twice on Sunday to approve the budget deadline extension bill. After there was no vote in the first meeting in the afternoon, a vote was expected late Sunday night ahead of Monday’s voting in the plenum. Finance Minister Israel Katz attended the second meeting.
“We have an obligation to prevent elections and chaos in the country,” MK Yitzhak Pindrus (UTJ) told members of the committee.
He adjourned the meeting until 9 p.m. and half-jokingly said when it reconvenes, “if Likud and Blue and White have not reached an agreement, we could announce to the people of Israel that we are going to elections.”
If there is an election, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai will run at the helm of a new party that MK Yair Golan is working on forming that would run together with Meretz in the next election, KAN Radio reported Sunday. Golan was also trying to woo former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, the report said.
A source close to Huldai would not confirm the report. Golan’s spokesman said there must be only one Zionist party between Blue and White and the Joint List.
“We are talking with everyone,” he said.