Final efforts continue to avoid early elections

What happened: With the deadline for the budget five days away, it appears Israel is heading for another election.

  • Last night the Blue and White faction met at the home of Minister Izhar Shay, where party leader Benny Gantz told his colleagues, to take it easy for the moment; the election campaign will be starting soon.
  • Nevertheless Israeli media also reports that confidants of Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu met for intensive talks overnight in an effort to reach a compromise and avert early elections.
  • According to reports, the Likud is proposing to delay the alternating premiership arrangement and to extend the overall term of the government.  This would mean Netanyahu remaining prime minister into spring or summer 2022. In return Blue and White is demanding that Avi Nissenkorn continue to serve as justice minister. This would allow him to appoint the next state attorney, attorney general and at least another two Supreme Court justices.
  • On Thursday Gideon Saar registered his new party formally named, “New Hope—Unity for Israel.”  The party’s goals include; “entrench Israel’s identity as the state of the Jewish people, whose regime is democratic… which protects human rights and maintains equal individual rights.” He also pledged to advance the education system, strengthen the geographical and social periphery and the settlements.

Context: Both Likud and Blue and White appear to have a vested interest in avoiding early elections. Recent polls indicate that the Likud could lose their ability to form the next government while Blue and White could even fail to cross the electoral threshold.

  • In parallel, the Likud are also thought to be attempting to form an alternative coalition within the current Knesset. According to Channel 12 News the Likud has offered the leader of Yamina, Naftali Bennett the defence ministry and other ministerial portfolios in exchange for its joining the Netanyahu government. Bennett has apparently turned down the offer. Efforts are also being made to break up the Blue and White party and keep enough members to ensure a thin government majority.
  • According to the latest poll in Maariv this morning, if elections were held today, the Likud would receive 29 seats, New Hope: 19, Yesh Atid-Telem:13, Yamina: 13, Joint List: 11, Shas: 8, United Torah Judaism: 8, Blue and White: 7, Yisrael Beiteinu: 7 and Meretz: 5 seats.
  • Earlier this week Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman called to unite a coalition of Zionist, centre-right liberal parties that would be comprised of Yisrael Beiteinu, New Hope, Yesh Atid-Telem and Yamina. A poll that was conducted for Tel Aviv Radio 103 FM found that if those four parties were to run as a single list, they would win 45 seats; alternatively, if they were to run independently, they would win  49 seats.  The other party leaders have not acquiesced to his proposal.

Looking ahead: This will be a critical weekend, according to sources in both Likud and Blue and White. If no breakthrough is reached by Sunday, there wont be enough time to pass legislation avoiding new elections.

  • There are two scenarios that lead to new elections: A bill to disperse the Knesset could be voted on Monday that is expected to set the election date for March 16 and include clauses to limit the parties spending on the campaign.
  • If there is no budget and no new legislation, the Knesset will automatically disband at midnight on Tuesday and the elections will automatically be set for March 23.

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