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Wednesday Could Be the Israeli Government’s Last Day

On Wednesday, a vote to have a new election will either pass or fail.
[additional-authors]
November 30, 2020
From left: Benny Gantz; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photos by Amir Cohen/Reuters

An Update: on Tuesday evening, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz informed the public that the party is going to vote for early election. Note that Wednesday’s vote is a preliminary vote, and not yet the final word.

Israel has a dysfunctional government, and this has been the situation for quite some time. If  — as some foreign reports contend — Israel had a hand in ending the illustrious career of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the leading Iranian nuclear scientist, I’d be surprised. How can the Israeli government simultaneously be so incompetent and so competent? How can a prime minister and a defense minister who can barely communicate execute such complicated operation together?

So maybe the Iran assassination wasn’t Israel’s doing. Or maybe our government is not as useless as we think. Or maybe we live in a complicated world in which institutions can be both infuriating and admirable at the same time.

But Wednesday, December 2, the leaders of the Blue and White Party will face a dilemma. The decision they have to make is to be (in the government), or not to be (in the government, and maybe at all). Because on Wednesday, a vote to have a new election will either pass or fail. And the fate of that vote is up to them.

If you were on the moon for the last two years, here is Blue and White’s dilemma in a nutshell: two years ago, the party was formed to challenge Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud coalitions. For three elections within a year, the party almost made it to the top but could not pull together a coalition. So it joined Netanyahu’s coalition, then split, then found itself as the tail of the big dog. Its leader, Benny Gantz, made a deal with Netanyahu that will let him be the prime minister next fall. But he knows — everyone knows — that the coalition will not survive until then and that Netanyahu has no intention of letting him have the job. The leaders of Blue and White have two basic options: to end their misery now, or let Netanyahu pick a later date for elections, probably next March.

The leaders of Blue and White have two basic options: to end their misery now, or let Netanyahu pick a later date for elections, probably next March.

What would you do?

Here are the arguments for both options.

So, what would you do? Here are a few technical things to consider:

If the vote for new elections doesn’t pass, and Blue and White votes against it, they can’t propose such a bill for a few weeks.

If it does pass, it is not yet final. A preliminary vote only means that a committee will begin discuss the terms and possible dates for new election, and the committee is one controlled by Blue and White. So maybe there’s a third option: vote for an election to demonstrate seriousness, then slow things down to see how Netanyahu responds.

If by the end of March, Blue and White refuses to pass a budget for 2020 (because a budget for 2021 isn’t completed) the government will fall. So Blue and White will have another option to initiate an exit in about a month.

But a compromise that lets Netanyahu have a 2020 budget and keep his government intact will mean that the prime minister could still make sure that the 2021 budget doesn’t pass by March, thus ending his coalition at the latest possible date that does not guarantee Gantz the coveted “rotation” of prime minister. If a 2021 budget doesn’t pass by March, the government will face a June election instead of a March election.

Now — we wait.

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