Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on Dec. 2, 2020.

POOL/Reuters

Israel took a major step toward plunging into its fourth national election in under two years on Wednesday as lawmakers – supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner – passed a preliminary proposal to dissolve parliament.

The 61-54 vote came just seven months after the coalition took office following three inconclusive elections in just more than a year. Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party and Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White said they were seeking national unity to confront the coronavirus crisis. But since then, the rivals have been locked in infighting.

The vote gave only preliminary approval to ending the alliance and forcing a new election early next year. The legislation now heads to a committee before parliament as a whole takes up final approval, perhaps as soon as next week. In the meantime, Mr. Gantz and Mr. Netanyahu are expected to continue negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to preserve their troubled alliance.

Story continues below advertisement

By joining the opposition in Wednesday’s vote, Mr. Gantz’s party voiced its dissatisfaction with Mr. Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his own personal interests ahead of those of the country.

Mr. Netanyahu is on trial for a series of corruption charges, and Mr. Gantz accuses the Prime Minister of hindering key governmental work, including the passage of a national budget, in hopes of stalling or overturning the legal proceedings against him. Mr. Gantz and other critics believe Mr. Netanyahu is ultimately hoping to see a friendlier parliament elected next year that will give him immunity from prosecution.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party sponsored the bill to trigger new elections, accused the government of gross mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. He said the one thing all citizens share is “the feeling that they lost control over their lives.”

The government still has not yet passed a budget for 2020, a result of the deep divisions produced by its power-sharing agreement. The lack of budget has caused severe hardships and cutbacks for Israelis at a time when unemployment is estimated at more than 20 per cent because of the pandemic.

In a nationally broadcast news conference Wednesday evening, Mr. Netanyahu delivered a mixed message, calling on Mr. Gantz to remain in the government, but also sounding very much like a politician on the campaign trail.

Mr. Netanyahu began his address by claiming credit for leading the battle against the novel coronavirus, forging diplomatic agreements with Gulf Arab countries and protecting Israel against its enemies in the region.

He derisively referred to Mr. Gantz’s party as “an opposition within the coalition” and skirted around questions about passing the budget or honouring the rotation agreement with Mr. Gantz.

Story continues below advertisement

“In dramatic times like these, we don’t need to go to elections. The people of Israel want unity, not ballots. It wants vaccines and not campaign ads,” he said. “The only way we can defeat corona is defeating it together. We need to put politics aside.”

Mr. Gantz, meanwhile, released a video blaming Mr. Netanyahu for the political paralysis and economic damage resulting from the pandemic.

“We all know the truth. You know the truth,” Mr. Gantz said in the video. “If there was no trial, there would be a budget. If there was no trial, there would be a functioning government. There would be unity.”

Israel has gone through two nationwide lockdowns since March, and officials are already warning rising infections could result in a return to strict restrictions that were only recently lifted.

If a budget for 2020 isn’t passed by Dec. 23, Israeli law stipulates an automatic dissolution of parliament and new elections three months later in late March.

Under the coalition deal, Mr. Netanyahu is to serve as prime minister until November, 2021, with the job rotating to Mr. Gantz for 18 months after that. The only way Mr. Netanyahu can hold onto his seat and get out of that agreement is if a budget doesn’t pass and new elections are held.

Story continues below advertisement

There were no indications that either side is interested in preserving their partnership for the long run. Instead, the battle is expected to be over when the election will be held.

Although Mr. Gantz’s party has plummeted in opinion polls, he appears to have concluded that elections are inevitable and the sooner they are held, the better.

By pushing for an election early next year, he seems to be banking that Mr. Netanyahu will be punished by voters for a still-raging pandemic, a struggling economy and the resumption of his corruption trial.

Starting in February, Mr. Netanyahu’s corruption trial is scheduled to kick into high gear, with a string of witnesses testifying against him. The Prime Minister is expected to be a frequent visitor to the courtroom.

Mr. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is expected to try to drag out budget talks to delay elections until the summer in hopes a vaccine will arrive and the economy will begin to recover. If he can put together a hard line coalition at that time, he might finally be positioned to push through an immunity bill or appoint new judicial officials to freeze or overturn his case.

“Over the last two years, the only question you need to ask is not what is best for the country and not what is best for this or that party, but what is in the best interest of Benjamin Netanyahu,” Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, told reporters. She said it looks like Mr. Netanyahu thinks it is his best interest to hold an election next summer.

Story continues below advertisement

One wild card in any Israeli election will be the administration of president-elect Joe Biden.

Mr. Netanyahu has had a close relationship with President Donald Trump after clashing with president Barack Obama for the previous eight years. Israeli officials fear Mr. Biden, who was Mr. Obama’s vice-president, will return to the policies of that era, especially renewing possible diplomatic engagement with arch-enemy Iran.

Prof. Tashir said this would be a “big issue” in the next Israeli campaign.

“Netanyahu is going to put forward an argument, which says, ‘I’m the only Israeli leader who can actually stand up against a Biden administration,’” she said.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies