They have to go to the polls again: In all likelihood, new elections will be held in Israel in March – for the fourth time in two years. And this in the midst of the Corona crisis, which has widened the gap between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox in the country. Many hold the ultra-Orthodox circles of society partly responsible for the harsh measures, because the religious extended families prefer to follow the directives of their rabbis, which are far removed from science, rather than the recommendations of epidemiologists. A little political stability would have done the torn society good. But nothing will come of it.
The reason: Parliament was unable to reach an agreement on the current year’s state budget until the very end. Without a last-minute deal (which was not in the offing by the time this report went to press), Parliament will automatically dissolve.
The head of government’s loophole
For months, the dispute over the budget was the core conflict between the two coalition partners, Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Benny Gantz (Alliance Blue-White). However, it was never about the actual issue. The debate over the state budget was simply a loophole for Netanyahu to provoke new elections without having to hand over his post as prime minister to Gantz. This is because in their government agreement, the two stipulated that in the event of new elections, Netanyahu would have to step down and Gantz would become interim prime minister – unless there were unresolved issues regarding the state budget.
Netanyahu clings to power for a simple reason: The job as prime minister assures him immunity from prosecution. Once he no longer has that, he will have to stand trial in the three corruption cases.
After Netanyahu, Israel faces a shift to the right
But the wind has shifted for the powerful man in Israel. His most dangerous challenger no longer comes from the center or the left, but from within his own ranks: Former Likud member of parliament Gideon Sa’ar is digging out numerous seats from Netanyahu’s Likud with his newly founded “Tikva Chadasha” (“New Hope”) party. Sa’ar has promised never to enter into a coalition with Netanyahu. He feels encouraged by the increasingly Netanyahu-critical public in Israel. Every week, thousands demonstrate against the government’s failure in the Corona crisis.
by Basit Abbasi/JP