Israel on cusp of fourth national elections in two years

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If the government does not pass a budget by midnight Tuesday, Israeli law stipulates that the Knesset dissolve and triggers snap elections in 90 days. Most avenues to evade that deadline have been closed off.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party have been at loggerheads over the national budget issue since forming a unity government in May.

Netanyahu and Gantz had proposed pushing off Tuesday’s deadline by two more weeks in an effort to reach a compromise on the 2020 budget. But members of their own parties voted against the motion in a late-night, 11th hour break from party ranks.

“We do not want elections and we voted against them this evening, but we are not afraid of elections — because we will win!” the prime minister wrote on Twitter.

Once parliament dissolves, Israelis will head to the polls in March for a fourth time since early 2019, this time in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a major economic recession, and while Netanyahu is on trial for a series of corruption charges.

Netanyahu also faces a challenger from within his own camp, Gideon Saar, who broke from the Likud party earlier this month and has called for the long-ruling prime minister’s ouster. Several members of Netanyahu’s party who shot down Tuesday’s proposal are expected to join ranks with Saar.

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