Elections inch closer after budget not presented

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“The prime minister will not bring the budget for a vote tomorrow,” Finance Minister Israel Katz told ‘The Jerusalem Post’ on Saturday night.

NETANYAHU AND Gantz – can they put their animosity aside and serve the public? (photo credit: CORINNA KERN AMIR COHEN REUTERS)

NETANYAHU AND Gantz – can they put their animosity aside and serve the public?

(photo credit: CORINNA KERN AMIR COHEN REUTERS)

The 2020 state budget will not be presented on Sunday, rendering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans for passing two one-year budgets nearly impossible to carry out and increasing the likelihood of another general election.

“The prime minister will not bring the budget for a vote tomorrow,” Finance Minister Israel Katz told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. “We are ready to present the budget. The prime minister will make a decision in the upcoming days.”

Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz has insisted on passing one two-year budget and preventing Netanyahu from using the failure to pass a budget to enable the initiation of an election in which Netanyahu would serve as caretaker prime minister.

Sources close to Gantz said on Saturday night that they were not surprised that Katz backed down from his promise to present a budget on Sunday, but did not rule out reaching a compromise to end the political impasse.

“We hope a solution will be found but to say we are optimistic would be an exaggeration,” a source close to Gantz said.

The deadline for completing the process of passing a budget into law is August 25, 100 days after the formation of the government. If neither a budget, nor a bill to extend the deadline is passed by then, an election in November would be initiated automatically, which would be Israel’s fourth election in under 19 months.

Another option is for an alternative government to be formed instead. Transportation Minister Miri Regev hinted that this has become a more realistic possibility in an interview with the Meet the Press program on Channel 12 on Saturday night.

“There are initiatives in the Knesset to form an alternative government if Gantz leads us to elections,” Regev said. “Gantz needs to wake up and understand that if he takes us to another race, there will be such proposals. If he wants to avoid elections, he has to pass a one-year budget.”

The coalition agreement requires a two-year budget. But Regev said that since the deal was signed, the coronavirus pandemic has intensified in Israel.

“A one-year budget is necessary when there is a crisis,” she said.

But the head of the Finance Ministry’s Budget Department Shaul Meridor was quoted by Ma’ariv telling the top officials in his ministry last week that “from next week, passing a one-year budget becomes a joke.”

The report said all the top officials in the ministry agreed with him and that it has already become a foregone conclusion that 2021 will start without a budget in place.

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