Shas and United Torah Judaism will not be obligated to support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forming the next government if he initiates another election, the parties made clear to Netanyahu, sources said Sunday night.
Without the support of the two haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties, Netanyahu will have no political bloc and it would become less likely that President Reuven Rivlin would give him a mandate to form a government. Netanyahu has already lost the support of Yamina and Yisrael Beytenu, two parties on the Right that backed him in the past.
Shas and UTJ did not go as far as confirming a Channel 13 report that stated they are even considering voting for a bill that will be raised in the Knesset on Wednesday that would prevent a prime minister indicted for serious crimes from forming a government.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said on Saturday that he would not rule out supporting the bill, which would apply to Netanyahu, who has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach and trust. With the support of Blue and White, Shas and UTJ, the bill would pass easily.
“We are submitting the bill that would prevent an indicted person from running for prime minister, because the current situation cannot continue,” opposition leader Yair Lapid said.
Blue and White, Shas and UTJ are expected to support a compromise bill that would postpone the August 25 deadline to pass a budget. The bill, sponsored by MK Zvi Hauser, is expected to receive permission from the Knesset House Committee on Tuesday to be brought to a vote in the plenum by Wednesday.
In a potentially dramatic development, Netanyahu agreed to grant the Likud’s support for the bill’s initial votes in the Knesset in an effort to give time to reach a compromise with Blue and White.Gantz told his party’s ministers at a meeting on Sunday that the only people in the country who want elections are Netanyahu and Lapid, a charge the Yesh Atid leader denies.
“Only two people want elections,” he said. “One to improve his legal and personal situation, and one to improve his political situation.”
Likud responded that Gantz should follow his own campaign slogan and put the country first by enabling the state budget to pass.
At Sunday’s meeting of the coronavirus cabinet, Gantz shouted at Finance Minister Israel Katz: “You never intended to abide by the coalition agreement.” Netanyahu responded mockingly that Gantz should shout even louder.
Sunday’s scheduled cabinet meeting was not held, due to what Blue and White called “Likud’s insistence not to uphold the coalition agreement and failure to approve government regulations that would ensure its stability.”
Likud countered that the meeting was canceled because Blue and White refused to discuss Netanyahu and Katz’s economic plan. The NIS 8.5 billion plan is intended to create 10,000 jobs, allocate NIS 700 million to poor families and NIS 600m. to the elderly unemployed.
“At this time when citizens of Israel are dealing with the coronavirus crisis, Likud is asking Blue and White not to prevent allocating them funding,” Likud said.
Blue and White notified Likud that any vote relating to COVID-19 will not be delayed and will be held over the phone.
“The finance minister’s plan, which would cost billions and have long-running implications, has yet to be presented or fully solidified,” Blue and White said. “The attempt to present it on a day’s notice is a reckless endeavor. This is not the first time Likud is reneging on its promises. Any excuse is a blatant lie to the Israeli public. We expect Likud to uphold the agreement and ratify the government regulations to allow for the stability so desperately needed during this time.”
Gantz went further in a private briefing on Zoom to Blue and White activists that was leaked to Army Radio on Sunday morning. In the briefing, Gantz accused Netanyahu of “purposely dividing the country” and “spreading hate to strengthen his own political base and continue to rule.”
Gantz said he did not know when the next election would be. He said he preferred that it be held years away but that it could end up being much sooner.
He said even though he joined a Netanyahu-led government, he had not changed his mind that it is unacceptable that there is a prime minister with three criminal indictments.
The dispute between Likud and Blue and White is over whether to pass two one-year budgets, as Likud prefers, or one two-year budget as Blue and White wants and Likud is obligated to according to the coalition agreement it signed.
Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar suggested a compromise of passing the 2020 budget in the cabinet and then working on passing the 2021 budget in the cabinet before the 2020 budget is passed into law in the Knesset.
“Going to elections now is crazy,” Sa’ar told Army Radio. “During the coronavirus crisis, what we need is as much political stability as possible. It is possible to find a solution.”
Yesh Atid-Telem MK Moshe Ya’alon told KAN Radio that it is possible to form a coalition without Netanyahu in the current Knesset. He said the Joint List could support such a government from outside the coalition.