Coalition scrap intensifies as Blue and White launches anti-Likud campaign

Lawmakers in centrist party publish coordinated posts going after PM’s party for holding up budget; Likud accuses unity partner of politicking during pandemic

Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a vote to stave off a budget deadline and thus avert elections, at the Knesset on August 24, 2020.(Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)
Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a vote to stave off a budget deadline and thus avert elections, at the Knesset on August 24, 2020.(Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

Lawmakers in the Blue and White party launched a coordinated campaign against their coalition partners from Likud, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party of blocking much-needed reforms and refusing to pass an annual budget.

Each lawmaker in Defense Minister Benny Ganz’s party published posts on Facebook describing a piece of legislation or reform that they claimed Likud was blocking by preventing the key Ministerial Committee for Legislation from convening or by refusing to pass a budget for 2021, as previously agreed upon.

The posts were coupled with a picture of the Knesset plenum along with one of two captions: “Likud is blocking this reform as well” or “Likud is blocking this bill as well”

The Likud party responded by accusing Blue and White politicians of playing politics.

The social media campaign represented the latest riff between the two parties, which have been at loggerheads virtually since their unity government was formed in May, but have intensified in recent weeks as the already-extended deadline for passing a budget approaches.

Netanyahu reportedly has prevented Finance Ministry officials from introducing a new one. Critics accuse him of holding the budget hostage because of a clause in the coalition agreement which allows him to remain transitional leader if the government collapses due to failure to pass a budget.

“Because of the Likud’s petty insistence, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation has not convened for two months, except for a symbolic meeting this week when three laws were only discussed. Without the committee, there is no legislation. It’s that simple,” wrote Blue and White MK Hila Shay Vazen.

She said she’s been fighting for months to advance legislation requiring wedding halls to return unused deposits to couples whose weddings were canceled because of the pandemic.

“We must pass a budget for 2021 now. We demand a functioning government,” she concluded.

Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen used the same two sentences to sign off her post in which she lamented her inability to pass reforms slashing tax hikes for senior citizen employees.

“This is a broad public that wants to work, that can work and sometimes needs this income to survive. Senior citizens have so much to contribute,” she said, blasting Likud for blocking the passage of a budget that ostensibly would allow for the removal of this clause in the tax code.

״Enough already! Israel’s economy is bleeding,” wrote Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. “It’s time to recover and start working as partners.”

“There is no budget for the elderly, for discharged soldiers, for domestic violence and rehabilitation centers, for employment training programs. We must take care of the economy and the public!” he added.

Likud responded by accusing Blue and White of politicking in the middle of a pandemic.

Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen, in Jerusalem, on May 18 2020. (Flash90)

“Instead of reaching agreements and while we are fighting the coronavirus, Blue and White unfortunately prefers to run a political campaign instead of helping the citizens of Israel. Likud calls on Blue and White to return immediately to [working in] unity and cooperation.”

The two parties formed a unity government earlier this year after three inconclusive elections to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, but the government’s tenure has been marred by constant fighting and dysfunctionality.

Tensions between the sides flared Monday as Blue and White’s leadership said that new elections would be held if a state budget for 2020-2021 was not passed by the end of November.

After days of threatening action if the government fails to pass a budget according to the coalition agreement, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz sharpened his ultimatum, saying unequivocally, “If there is no budget, we’ll go to elections.”

Israel has limped through 2020 without a state budget, even though the coalition agreement signed by Blue and White and Likud in April provided for a two-year 2020-21 budget to be passed in the summer.

Blue and White has already reportedly warned that should the dysfunction in the coalition continue and a state budget for 2021 fail to advance in the Knesset by the end of November, it will “act as an opposition” within the government.

The prime minister is currently on trial for fraud and breach of trust in three other cases, and bribery in one of them. He denies any wrongdoing and claims to be a victim of an attempted political coup involving the police, state prosecutors under Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s authority, left-wing opposition, and the media.

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