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Bennett races to solve dispute with Gantz so government can resume legislation

Reported compromise would see stalled IDF pension bill approved in first reading, followed by in-depth discussion of its details in the Knesset’s committees

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speak, during the swearing-in ceremony for President Isaac Herzog, on July 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speak, during the swearing-in ceremony for President Isaac Herzog, on July 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday told Defense Minister Benny Gantz that he is working to solve the dispute between the Blue and White party and the rest of the coalition.

On Monday, Blue and White announced a boycott of Knesset votes over the coalition’s refusal to advance legislation to enshrine increases to the pensions of career military officers.

The party said that it would not cooperate on government-backed bills due to “the apparent damage to state security and the breach of coalition obligations for a period of months.”

The legislation to boost the pensions for IDF officers is seen as relatively unpopular, as it will benefit some officers who are already well paid as the cost of living in Israel continues to rise. But Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, is determined to provide financial relief to a key constituency of his party.

The Blue and White statement did not explicitly mention military pensions, but Gantz railed against the government on the issue during a speech Monday morning. He claimed that critics of the pension hike were spreading “blood libels” against military officers.

The boycott led on Wednesday to the opposition advancing over a dozen of its bills in the Knesset plenum after a meeting between Gantz, Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to solve the dispute failed to bear fruit — forcing the coalition to withdraw all its legislation for the day and telling its members they need not show up for votes.

Wishing to end the dispute as soon as possible, Bennett proposed a compromise to Gantz and the rest of the coalition, Channel 12 news reported.

According to the report, a rudimentary version of the IDF pension bill will pass its first reading in the plenum and then go through more in-depth discussions on its details in the Knesset’s committees, with amendments to be made if necessary.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center), and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend a plenum session in the Knesset, on January 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The report noted, however, that the compromise is also likely to run into difficulties, as the Labor and Meretz parties want Gantz to declare prior to the first reading that the bill could be amended, and not just settle for discussion, which the defense minister is reportedly unwilling to commit to.

The bill is set to go up for a vote in the plenum on Monday, Ynet reported.

The dispute with Blue and White is the latest in a string of crises to plague the diverse coalition.

On Tuesday, Yisrael Beytenu’s Eli Avidar, who had been serving as a minister without portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office, became the government’s first minister to resign his post and return to the Knesset.

In previous weeks, the party causing the mayhem was Ra’am, due to its frustration with the government advancing the controversial Citizenship Law barring Palestinians who marry Arab Israelis from obtaining citizenship, as well as the shelving of legislation to assist Israel’s Bedouin population.

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