A bill proposed to avoid Knesset shutdown and a fourth elections in two years has failed to pass on Monday night, sealing Israel’s fate.
47 MKs voted for the bill, while 49 voted against. The 23rd Knesset will disperse Tuesday at noon.
“I am at peace with my decision to do the least I can to end this embarrassing show of a stuck and conflicted government which is holding an entire country hostage for political seats, and therefore I will resign from the Knesset and join ‘New Hope’ led by Gideon Sa’ar,” Shir said on Twitter.
On his official Twitter, Netanyahu said in response to the vote that the “Blue and White [party] withdrew from the agreements and dragged us to unnecessary choices during the Corona crisis. We do not want elections and we voted against them tonight as well, but we are not afraid of elections – because we will win.”
Opposition head and chairman of the Yesh Atid-Telem party said during the debate on the bill that ““Netanyahu doesn’t care about the mutation, he only cares about the rotation.”
Labor MK Merav Michaeli, who didn’t join the coalition, panned Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and fellow party member Gabi Ashkenazi, along with members of the her own party, Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli, saying in a tweet that they “have probably sat down and wrote a new platform of promises to violate, and that she intends to go to court in order to reinstate the Labor party primaries.
Prior to the vote, Gantz called Netanyahu on Monday with upgraded demands for preventing a March 23 election.
The list included preventing harm to the rule of law, approving all key appointments, passing the 2020 and 2021 state budgets and closing all loopholes that would prevent Gantz from becoming prime minister next November.
The legislation, which was brought to a vote in the Knesset plenum late Monday night, would delay the deadline for passing the 2020 state budget from Tuesday night until December 31 and set the deadline for passing the 2021 state budget for January 5.
“I regret that the prime minister is preoccupied with his trial and not the public interest, and is prepared to drag the entire country into a period of uncertainty, instead of ensuring economic stability and a rehabilitation of the economy,” Gantz said.
“If Likud won’t meet our demands, we will head to elections with our head held high, having put Israel before everything else, and let the voters decide,” Gantz said at the time.
Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn of Blue and White added that “no democracy in the world would tolerate its prime minister holding its budget hostage, and Israel will not either.”
The Likud responded to Gantz’s ultimatum by saying that he had withdrawn from all his previous commitments on legal issues, in a failed attempt to seek votes for his disintegrating party.
“We’ve been working hard on preventing unnecessary elections,” Netanyahu said during a meeting with White House special advisor Jared Kushner on Monday.
“We reached agreements with Blue and White,” he said. “They made promises, good agreements that would have allowed us to prevent this round of elections. Unfortunately, due to internal pressure from within his party, Gantz decided to change his mind – and this thing is dragging the entire country to unnecessary elections during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Blue and White faced unprecedented infighting on Monday, as officials close to Gantz said Nissenkorn caused the party significant damage.
A bill that would postpone the deadline for passing the budget and prevent early elections from being initiated passed in the Knesset House Committee by a seven to five vote on Monday afternoon. Even before Gantz’s ultimatum to Netanyahu, passing the bill into law by Tuesday night’s deadline would have been a challenge, due to rebellions in Blue and White and Likud, and further complicated by MKs suffering from COVID-19. Ultimately, the bill failed to pass.
There are at least two MKs remaining in Likud who could defect to Sa’ar’s party soon, and as many as five MKs in Blue and White could end up opposing the bill.
Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh wrote on Twitter that elections were urgently needed. She said she could not guarantee that she would run with Blue and White in the next election.
“I supported entering the unity government out of responsibility for the citizens of Israel,” she wrote. “That same responsibility requires me now to consider the bad option of elections and compare it to the intolerable reality of a government that does not function and violates the rules of the game, including misusing Basic Laws. The time has come to return to the people, who are sovereign in a democracy, and ask them to make a decision.”
Blue and White MKs Asaf Zamir, Ram Shefa and Miki Haimovich opposed the deal as well.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid reached out to his former allies in Blue and White at a meeting of his Yesh Atid faction.
By Gill Hoffman and Cody Levine.