Netanyahu: Gantz won’t be prime minister unless he stops fighting me
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Coalition squabbling intensifies over bill to forbid indicted PM from serving

Blue and White said split over backing for proposal that would essentially boot Netanyahu, as Likud reportedly threatens to bring down government if partner votes for it

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press briefing, July 27, 2020 (Gobi Gideon/GPO)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press briefing, July 27, 2020 (Gobi Gideon/GPO)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they occured.

Reports of balloon-borne explosives over Sderot

Residents of the southern town of Sderot report hearing the sounds of at least three explosions overhead, apparently caused by balloon-borne explosive devices flown into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

There are no reports of injuries or damage.

The blasts come amid escalating tensions between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group in recent days, as the organization appears to threaten to renew violence along the border, unless additional Qatari aid money is allowed into the enclave.

— Judah Ari Gross

PA reports 7 new coronavirus deaths, as Hebron sees fresh surge

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry announces that 467 new cases of the novel coronavirus have been detected among Palestinians in the past 24 hours.

Seven Palestinians passed away today from the virus, according to the PA Health Ministry: three in Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem, which the PA counts in its official statistics, and four in the West Bank.According to Health Ministry statistics, 19,121 Palestinians have been infected since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis: 14,429 in the West Bank, 81 in the Gaza Strip, and 4,611 in East Jerusalem.

After a brief dip, daily coronavirus infections have begun rising again across the West Bank in the past week even as testing has decreased.

Hebron governorate, which saw its daily record of new infections dip into the low double digits this past week, has seen a surge in cases. There are currently 8,178 active cases in the West Bank and 10 in the Gaza Strip.

PA Health Ministry spokesperson Dr. Kamal al-Shakhra says that health authorities will meet tomorrow to discuss new policies given “widespread disobeying of social distancing” in areas the PA controls.

— Aaron Boxerman

Good fences make good boar-blockers, Denmark says

The number of wild boars in Denmark has fallen since a 70-kilometer (43.4-mile) fence was erected along the German border to protect the valuable Danish pork industry, authorities say.

The fence was put up last year in an attempt to prevent wild swine crossing from Germany and breeding with farm pigs, or possibly passing disease. However, there had been concerns that it would not work, because the fence had gaps in it where it crossed roads and rivers.

Since then, however, the number of wild pigs in Denmark has fallen from 35-40 to fewer than 25, even though some piglets were born in recent months, officials said Monday.

Wild boars gather in a residential area in the northern city of Haifa on December 5, 2019.(MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Israel has its own wild boar problem, with officials pointing to the animals wreaking havoc inside cities, especially in Haifa, in recent months. However, fences around the country, which has almost no pork industry, are designed to keep out people, not pigs.

— with AP

High Court says army cannot raze home of Palestinian charged in troop slaying

In a split decision, the High Court of Justice has nixed the planned demolition of the home of a Palestinian who has been charged with the killing of IDF soldier 21-year-old Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal earlier this year.

The court instead permits the army only to seal up one room of the apartment where 49-year-old Nazmi Abu Bakr lived.

Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal, who was killed when a rock was thrown at his head during an arrest raid in the northern West Bank village of Yabed on May 12, 2020. (Social media)

In the prevailing decision, judges Menachem Mazuz and George Karra reason that Abu Bakr’s wife and eight children, who were not involved in the attack, still live there.

The ruling is pilloried by politicians from the right, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who calls it a “terrible decision.”

“I demand another hearing with a wider bench,” he says in a statement posted on his Twitter account. “We can’t give terror wind at its back. My policy as prime minister is to destroy terrorists’ houses and I plan to continue doing so.”

— Stuart Winer

Liberman says party will vote against budget deadline extension

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman says at a faction meeting that his party will vote against a proposal to give lawmakers 100 extra days to pass a budget.

“What Israel needs now is a budget, not delays.”

He also lashes out at fellow opposition members for pushing bills that have little to do with the pandemic, despite claiming publicly that dealing with it is the only thing that matters.

Lapid thrashes proposal to delay budget as ‘small politics’

Opposition leader Yair Lapid is pillorying a proposal that would give lawmakers until mid-December to pass a budget, calling it “crooked and harmful.”

Yair Lapid (left) and Benny Gantz speak to supporters in Tel Aviv, on February 20, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“As always, they have decided not to decide. Instead of passing a budget in record time, this government has chosen, again, to play small-minded and worthless political games on the backs of the people.”

“Anyone who supports delaying the budget is basically saying to the Israeli people: I don’t care about you anymore,” he says at the start of a Yesh Atid-Telem faction meeting.

The government currently has until August 25 to pass a budget or be automatically disbanded. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he would back a proposal to delay the deadline by 100 days, staving off elections, amid an ongoing dispute over whether to pass a single-year budget or one that extends to the end of 2021.

Gaza balloons ignite several fires in southern Israel

Multiple fires are raging in southern Israel that were apparently sparked by balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip.

Blazes are reported in the areas of Erez, Be’eri and Nahal Oz, all to the northeast of the Strip. Firefighters are working to extinguish the fires.

Fire and Rescue Services investigators have yet to determine the causes of the fires, but Palestinian media has reported that terror groups in the Strip have been launching the arson balloons throughout the day.

No injuries have been reported as a result of the fires, most of which are relatively contained.

— Judah Ari Gross

Gantz says budget deadline extension can be passed in a day

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz tells his faction that he wants to see a bill delaying the deadline for passing a budget make it through the Knesset by this time tomorrow.

“The government will okay the proposal to amend the date needed for the budget tonight, the Knesset will pass it and within 24 hours, without tricks or shtick. It’s possible, legal, correct, and ethical,” he says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would back the bill on Sunday, though some in his party have indicated that the support only extends to a preliminary or first reading, with no guarantees for the rest of the votes on it.

Fourth minister resigns in Lebanon as government staggers

Lebanon’s finance minister has stepped down in the fourth resignation from a government under fire over the deadly port blast that ripped through the capital, a ministry official tells AFP.

The resignation of the minister, Ghazi Wazni, brings the entire government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab closer to collapsing, over the August 4 explosion that has reignited angry street protests.

— AFP

Netanyahu tells Gantz to forget budget deadline, pass one-year plan instead

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu has responded to Blue and White’s Benny Gantz’s demand that a proposal to delay the budget deadline by 100 days be passed in 24 hours, saying he should just drop it.

“We don’t need 24 hours or even minutes, we have a one-year budget ready to go,” he says at a Likud faction meeting.

Blue and White has insisted that the budget cover not only 2020, but also 2021.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said he would back the proposal to extend the deadline, thereby staving off the government from collapse on August 25, if no budget is passed. However, some have questioned whether Likud will actually make good on voting for the bill.

 

Netanyahu said to back September 1 school opening

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told his Likud faction that he will support Education Minister Yoav Gallant’s plan to open schools as normal, on September 1, Channel 13 reports.

Netanyahu makes the comments during the closed part of the meeting, according to the report.

Gallant told a Knesset committee earlier in the day that the year would open on September 1, “despite the difficulties.”

Gaza-area mayors demand government deal with return of fire balloons

Mayors of the Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip are calling for the government to take action against the terror groups in the enclave which have been launching balloon-borne explosive and incendiary devices into Israel and carrying out attacks along the border.

A fire that was sparked outside Kibbutz Erez in southern Israel, apparently by a balloon-borne incendiary device launched from the Gaza Strip, on August 10, 2020. (Sha’ar Hanegev Region)

“Our daily lives are again and again interrupted, by ear-ringing explosions, by fires, but rocket launches on a constant and ongoing basis. All of this, during a medical and economic crisis, which has also left its marks on our region,” the mayors write in a joint statement.

“We demand that the government put its disagreements aside and provide a permanent security response to the tens of thousands of residents of the Gaza periphery and Sderot,” they say.

— Judah Ari Gross

WHO says COVID-19 not following seasonal patterns

The emergencies chief for the World Health Organization says that COVID-19 does not seem to follow the seasonal patterns that some viruses exhibit, making it harder to control.

Unlike other respiratory viruses like influenza that spread mainly in the winter, the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating in the summer. That is despite earlier predictions from some scientists and politicians that it would fade in the heat.

“This virus has demonstrated no seasonal pattern as such,” says Dr. Michael Ryan at a press briefing “What it has clearly demonstrated is that if you take the pressure off the virus, the virus bounces back,” he said.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman in a mobile COVID-19 coronavirus testing vehicle in New Delhi on August 10, 2020. (Prakash SINGH / AFP)

Ryan says the UN health agency continues to advise countries, even where COVID-19 appears to be under control, such as those in Europe, to maintain measures to slow virus spread.

He calls for countries, particularly where transmission remains intense, such as Brazil, to adopt measures so that communities have the necessary support they need to implement strategies like social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolating if they have symptoms.

— AP

Rafah crossing into Gaza to briefly open for first time since May

The Gaza Strip will see new arrivals through Rafah border crossing with Egypt for the first time since May, the Palestinian embassy in Egypt announces.

The border will open from August 11 to August 13, the embassy says.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says it is preparing quarantine facilities and coronavirus tests for those returning.

All new arrivals in the Gaza Strip will be required to spend at least 21 days in quarantine, the Health Ministry says.

A mask-clad clown hired by a local kindergarten performs before children during an awareness session about COVID-19 coronavirus disease at the premises in Gaza City on August 10, 2020. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

There are currently 10 cases of the novel coronavirus in the Gaza Strip, all of which have been contained in quarantine centers delegated by Hamas for new arrivals.

Gaza has so far been spared any reported community spread of the virus.

Egypt and Hamas sealed the Rafah crossing in March for those trying to leave Gaza. There has been no announcement as to when Gazans will be allowed to exit the Strip and enter Egypt.

— Aaron Boxerman

Liberman accuses Netanyahu of throwing around loans to win electoral support

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman accuses Netanyahu of using government backed-loans to harvest political support for fresh elections.

“Since the pandemic broke out, the government has given out loans totaling some 160 billion shekel… With all this money being poured out, why is the situation so bad…. Because instead of investing the money in… creating jobs, it is being distributed as election bribes,” he tells Channel 12 news.

Liberman tells Netanyahu to retire, saying his party will work with Likud, but only after the premier steps down, and repeats a claim, made ad infitum over the last year, that Likud members know the Netanyahu era is over.

He also predicts that Netanyahu wants to go to the polls in a bid to get enough support for legislative cover to protect him from corruption convictions.

“If he can get 62-63 seats, I assume we’ll see a French law, a Chinese law, the Supreme Court override law. If not, in my opinion, he’ll race for a plea bargain,” he says.

IDF says it ordered people to reserve duty by mistake

The army says a text message was mistakenly sent out to people informing them that they must report to a base for reserve duty and tactical training by 8:30 a.m. tomorrow.

According to reports, the message was blasted to thousands of people, most of whom had no link to the reserve unit in question.

“The incident is being probed. This was a mistake and a corrected message has been sent out,” the IDF says in a statement, according to Hebrew media reports.

The message came amid heightened security tensions in the north and south.

Lebanese government resigns en masse — minister

Lebanon’s health minister says the government has resigned over last week’s devastating blast at the Beirut port.

The minister, Hamad Hassan, spoke with reporters at the end of a cabinet meeting on Monday.

He says: “The whole government resigned.”

Hassan also added that Prime Minister Hassan Diab will head to the presidential palace to “hand over the resignation in the name of all the ministers.”

— AP

Celebrations reported in Beirut, Lebanese PM to deliver speech

Lebanese protesters are celebrating news that the government is falling, Sky News Arabia reports.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab is slated to deliver a speech to the nation at 7:30 p.m. local time, according to Lebanon’s official news outlet.

 

One killed as several homes explode in Baltimore

Baltimore firefighters say an explosion leveled several homes in the city on Monday, killing one person and critically injuring others.

The explosion takes place at the 6500 block of Reisterstown Road, near where much of the city’s large Jewish community is centered.

Reports indicate a gas line may have been to blame for the blast.

The Baltimore Firefighters IAFF Local 734 says on Twitter that one person has been pronounced dead on the scene. The union also said that three people were in critical condition after being rescued by firefighters.

The union says that special rescue operation units were searching for other people.

Photos tweeted by the union show what appears to be a collapsed building and debris strewn about.

— with AP

Netanyahu: Gantz won’t be prime minister unless he stops fighting me

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is openly raising the possibility that he will not cede his seat to Defense Minister Benny Gantz as per a rotational agreement.

In a preview of an interview with Channel 20 news set to air later Monday, Netanyahu is asked whether Gantz will be prime minister.

“That depends on him. If he will stop leading a faction that is a government within the government, a government against the government, that argues with us on every matter, that delays budgets, budgets and other things, he will be prime minister. If not, it will break apart on him,” Netanyahu says.

Under a coalition between Netanyahu and Gantz, the Likud leader has to give up his seat after 18 months, or if the coalition collapses. However, if the government falls because of budget issues, Netanyahu would remain as interim prime minister, which has led to speculation that the premier is attempting to bring down the government by using a dispute over the scope of the budget.

Some in Gantz’s Blue and White party have also expressed concerns that Netanyahu may simply refuse to honor the agreement. Simmering bad blood between the two has broken into the open in recent days over the budget issue.

Netanyahu has consistently insisted that he has no intention of keeping Gantz from becoming prime minister, making this the first time he has publicly said he could prevent him from becoming prime minister.

All appeals against conviction of Nazi camp guard dropped

All appeals against the conviction of a 93-year-old Nazi concentration camp guard have been dropped, a Hamburg court says, making the decision legally binding and easing the way for possible future prosecutions.

Bruno Dey was convicted last month of 5,232 counts of accessory to murder in Hamburg state court — equal to the number of people believed to have been killed at Stutthof during his service there in 1944 and 1945.

93-year-old former SS guard Bruno Dey pictured at the regional court in Hamburg, Germany, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa via AP)

Because he was 17 and 18 at the time of his alleged crimes, Dey’s case was heard in juvenile court and he was given a two-year suspended sentence.

Dey was convicted under new legal reasoning that even though there was no evidence linking him to a specific crime, as a camp guard he was guilty of accessory to murders committed while he was there.

Last month, another former Stutthof guard, aged 95, was charged and the special prosecutors’ office that investigates Nazi-era crimes has more than a dozen ongoing investigations.

Initially a collection point for Jews and non-Jewish Poles removed from Danzig, Stutthof from about 1940 was used as a so-called “work education camp” where forced laborers, primarily Polish and Soviet citizens, were sent to serve sentences and often died.

— AP

Judge who ruled against razing terror suspect’s home gets extra security

Police have stepped up security outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Menachem Mazuz, after he ruled earlier in the day that the army could not raze the family home of a Palestinian charged with killing an Israeli soldier, Channel 13 reports.

Mazuz was one of two judges to rule that the IDF could not demolish the home because the wife and children of Nazmi Abu Bakr, who are still there, did not take part in the killing of Amit Ben-Ygal during a raid near Ramallah earlier this year.

The decision by Mazuz and George Karra sparked widespread anger among right-wing politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

A protest against the decision has been called for Sunday night in Tel Aviv.

Ben-Ygal’s mother, Nava Revivo, tells Channel 12 that “it feels like they killed him again.”

His father Baruch Ben-Ygal posts a tearful video on Facebook from his son’s gravesite in which he says he has lowered the flag to half-mast to mark the “bad day.”

הורדתי את דגל ישראל לחצי התורן

פורסם על ידי ‏ברוך בן יגאל‏ ב- יום שני, 10 באוגוסט 2020

Army begins pulling back some troops from northern border

The Israel Defense Forces has started scaling back reinforcements along the Lebanese border and removing roadblocks from the area following a “situational assessment,” the military says.

The additional troops and weaponry had been deployed along the border out of concern for an attack by the Hezbollah terror group, which has threatened revenge for the death of one of its fighters in an airstrike in Syria that was widely attributed to Israel.

“In accordance with the continuous situational assessment taking place in the IDF, some of the restrictions on military vehicles have been removed and a number of roadblocks have been opened in the area of the northern border,” the IDF says in a statement.

Israeli mobile artillery units sit in place in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon, July 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

“In addition, pinpoint scale-backs of reinforcement troops in the area have begun,” the military says.

Despite the decrease in reinforcements, the remaining troops in the area remain at high alert.

Throughout the past two and a half weeks in which the army has been on high alert, no restrictions have been put in place on civilians in the area, as the IDF assessed that a Hezbollah attack would be directed against a military target only.

— Judah Ari Gross

Mandelblit may ask court to rehear home razing case with full bench — report

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will hold a discussion on the possibility of asking the High Court to rehear a petition on the army’s plans to raze the home of a Palestinian suspected of killing a soldier, the Ynet news site reports.

The report comes after a large outcry over the court’s decision to nix the razing of the home. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pilloried the 2-1 decision and called for it to be heard by the court’s full bench of 15 judges.

 

Fresh clashes erupt in Beirut as PM announces resignation

Fresh protests are taking place in Beirut, as Lebanese citizens continue to vent frustrations at endemic government corruption.

Protesters have toppled a security wall and clashes are being reported near parliament, Naharnet news reports.

Videos show fighting between riot police, who are firing tear gas, and protesters.

The clashes take place as Prime Minister Hassan Diab addresses the nation, hours after turning in the resignation of his whole government.

Lebanese Prime Minister Diab announces fall of government

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has announced the resignation of his whole cabinet.

He says the port disaster is the result of chronic corruption and the government’s decision to resign is a sign that they are heeding people’s desires for change.

Protesters try to remove a concrete wall meant to protect the Lebanese parliament building, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. (AP/Bilal Hussein)

“The greatest threat… is the class which rules the country, and threatens the interests of its people, spreads disunity, and deals in the blood of the Lebanese people,” Diab says.

“The tragedy is utterly indescribable. But some are living in some other time, seeking to score political points or give populist speeches… only God knows how many disasters are hiding underneath their corruption,” Diab adds.

“This class has not come to grips with the Lebanese people revolution on October 17, 2019. This was a revolution that opposed them. But they did not understand it. They continued on with their practices and concern, thinking they could avoid the Lebanese people’s desire for change and independent institutions,” he says.

“We will take a step back now,” Diab said, referring to his government, “so as to stand with the people.”

— with Aaron Boxerman

Six new coronavirus deaths reported, bringing toll to 612

The Health Ministry announces six more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing Israel’s toll to 612.

The 10 deaths from midnight to 7 p.m. put Monday on pace to be among the deadliest days since the pandemic began.

The number of cumulative cases is up to 84,381, meaning there were over 1,700 new cases over the last 24 hours, despite lower testing numbers Sunday.

Three hundred and eighty-eight people are in serious condition, including 112 on ventilators.

Though the number of people hospitalized has risen above 800, hospitals which were once overcapacity now report being under capacity, likely pointing to a change in how they define capacity.

More suspected incendiary balloons found in south

Police sappers have been dispatched to deal with two balloons carrying suspected dangerous materials.

One balloon, carrying an incendiary device, lands in the city of Ofakim.

A second suspect balloon is reported in a cemetery in Beersheba, some  40 kilometers (25 miles) from Gaza, further than most of the arson balloons fly.

The Kan broadcaster reports that Israeli forces are widely expected to hit Gaza with more firepower than typical in reprisal raids late Monday, after a day that saw some 20 suspected incendiary or explosive-laden balloons flown into Israel.

Police said to crack down as protesters return to Minsk streets

Scattered groups of opposition supporters have gathered in downtown Minsk, chanting “Freedom!” and “Long live Belarus!” as a second night of protests gets underway after strongman Alexander Lukashenko won a new term in office a day earlier.

Heavy police contingents are deployed to block central squares and avenues.

Lukashenko warns that the protesters who challenge the official vote results extending his 26-year rule will face a tough crackdown, deriding the opposition as “sheep” manipulated by foreign masters.

Videos and pictures on social media show activists running from heavily armed police, who have reportedly opened fire on the protesters.

A spokesperson for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whose surprise candidacy posed the biggest challenge to the veteran leader in years, says she is not expected to take part in the protests.

“Authorities can create any provocative situation to detain her and we need her to be free,” Anna Krasulina told AFP.

An AFP journalist in Minsk says the area near the war memorial where protesters had gathered on Sunday has been sealed off and several central subway stations closed.

Thousands took to the streets of Minsk and other cities on Sunday night to denounce the vote, sparking clashes with members of law enforcement.

Police said they detained some 3,000 people, around 1,000 of them in Minsk.

Shocking images released by pro-opposition media and posted online showed police firing stun grenades and rubber bullets into the crowds and a police van ramming into the demonstration and running down a protester.

— Agencies

Trump again says US needs more Jews who support Israel

US President Donald Trump has reportedly told a group of Jewish supporters at a fundraiser that “we need more Jews in the US that love Israel.”

“Unfortunately there are Jews that don’t like Israel. You just lost a great supporter of Israel, Elliot Engel. We need more people that love Israel,” Trump said at a fundraiser in New Jersey Sunday, according to Jewish news outlet Belaaz.

The comments echo a statement made by Trump last year in which he decried Jews who vote Democrat as being disloyal to Israel. At the time, the comments kicked up a storm, sparking widespread condemnation from the Jewish community.

Engel, a Jewish Democrat who represented New York for years, lost his primary in June.

Trump made the comments Sunday at a tent outside the Deal, NJ, home of Stanley Chera, a friend who died of the coronavirus several months ago. Video of the event showed attendees, none of whom wore masks or maintained social distance, chanting “four more years,” and reciting a special Hebrew prayer for Trump.

Blue and White said split over support for anti-Netanyahu bill

Likud party members are threatening to immediately dismantle the coalition if Blue and White backs a bill that would make it illegal for a person under indictment to serve as prime minister, Ynet reports.

The unsourced report does not offer details about the threat or how it was communicated.

The Kan broadcaster reports that a battle is brewing within Blue and White over whether to back the opposition proposal, which would specifically target Netanyahu, who is charged in three corruption cases.

According to the report, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, Science Minister Izhar Shai and Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen are for backing the proposal.

On the other side are Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel, Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee head Zvi Hauser, Minister in the Defense Ministry Michael Biton and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shatta.

Netanyahu is rumored to be attempting to woo Hendel, Hauser and Tamano-Shatta away from Blue and White and into his fold.

According to the report, party leader Benny Gantz will decide on how the party will vote on Wednesday.

Speaking to Channel 12 news, Blue and White No. 2 Gabi Ashkenazi says forcing new elections would be akin to a “terror attack,” but admits the party cannot stop Likud from dismantling the government.

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Netanyahu: Gantz won’t be prime minister unless he stops fighting me

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is openly raising the possibility that he will not cede his seat to Defense Minister Benny Gantz as per a rotational agreement.

In a preview of an interview with Channel 20 news set to air later Monday, Netanyahu is asked whether Gantz will be prime minister.

“That depends on him. If he will stop leading a faction that is a government within the government, a government against the government, that argues with us on every matter, that delays budgets, budgets and other things, he will be prime minister. If not, it will break apart on him,” Netanyahu says.

Under a coalition between Netanyahu and Gantz, the Likud leader has to give up his seat after 18 months, or if the coalition collapses. However, if the government falls because of budget issues, Netanyahu would remain as interim prime minister, which has led to speculation that the premier is attempting to bring down the government by using a dispute over the scope of the budget.

Some in Gantz’s Blue and White party have also expressed concerns that Netanyahu may simply refuse to honor the agreement. Simmering bad blood between the two has broken into the open in recent days over the budget issue.

Netanyahu has consistently insisted that he has no intention of keeping Gantz from becoming prime minister, making this the first time he has publicly said he could prevent him from becoming prime minister.