by: Ilse Strauss
Wednesday, 23 December 2020 | It’s official. Israel is heading to the polls for the fourth national elections in less than two years.
The Knesset Speaker made the official announcement in the plenum at the stroke of midnight last night after the deadline to pass the 2020 state budget came and went, dissolving the 23rd Knesset (Parliament) by default.
The new vote is automatically set for March 23, 2021, exactly 90 days after the Knesset crumbled, although a vote can still change the date.
The failure to pass the 2020 budget comes a mere seven months after Likud and Blue and White, its main rival in the previous three indecisive elections, decided to set their differences aside to form a power-sharing unity government to lead Israel amid the coronavirus crisis through a rotating premiership between the two party chairs Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Despite the agreement, relations between Netanyahu and Gantz remained strained, with the two leaders failing to see eye to eye on a number of issues. The apex of the political turmoil was the approval of the state budget. Prolonged negotiations to reach an agreement collapsed, and with last night’s deadline looming, all last-ditch efforts proved fruitless. As the clock struck midnight, the dye was cast. Come March 2021, Israel will try for an unprecedented fourth consecutive time to select the leaders to govern the country.
Last night’s announcement does not come as a surprise. Experts and pundits have said for weeks that a fourth election was unavoidable.
Netanyahu was clearly resigned to the seemingly inevitable. Speaking to the press in a live statement shortly after 8 p.m. last night—roughly four hours before the Knesset crumbled—Netanyahu vowed that he did everything in his power to avoid fourth elections. “Israel is going to elections due to internal fights in Blue and White,” he explained.
Although this is not the path he would have chosen, the prime minister pledged to make the most of it, promising “a huge win” for Likud.
Continuing the back-and-forth blame game, Blue and White placed the blame squarely on Likud.
Although it is early days, polls predict a dismal outcome for Gantz and his party in the fourth round of elections. While Likud is expected to fare better, it is expected to be a tough race, with the main opposition to Netanyahu this time coming from right-wing parties.
Posted on December 23, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 23, 2020)
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