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Yamina will back bid to disband Knesset, its MK Shaked says

Ex-justice minister says coalition run by ‘failing parties’; bill would also need Blue and White’s backing; Yamina continues to trade fire with Netanyahu’s Likud as elections near

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, December 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, December 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday that her right-wing religious party would support Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s bill to disband the Knesset, with the government appearing to teeter on the brink of collapse anyway.

In a move aimed at pressuring the centrist Blue and White party to break ranks with the coalition amid an ongoing deterioration of relations within the government, Lapid said on Monday that he’ll again lead a proposal next week to disperse the Knesset and call new elections.

Blue and White’s leader, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, has refused to say if his party will support the bill. The party has been reportedly weighing putting forward its own bill to disperse the Knesset to avoid handing Yesh Atid credit for the move. Lapid’s bill would likely fail without Blue and White’s support.

“We will support, and file our own bill,” Shaked, the former justice minister, told the Ynet news website. “This government is a sick government. No medicine will help it, and it is right to go to elections.”

“It’s a left-wing government,” she said of the power-sharing government signed earlier this year by Netanyahu’s Likud and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “Netanyahu sold everything that’s important to the right to [Blue and White’s Justice Minister Avi] Nissenkorn and his partners.”

Shaked asserted that her party was now “a leadership alternative” to Likud, and said people were tired of “the failing parties currently running the country.”

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett “is able, worthy and needs to be the next prime minister,” she said.

Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett delivers a statement to the media in Ariel, in the West Bank, January 26, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Yamina and Likud continued their mutual attacks.

Bennett recently told ultra-Orthodox news website Kikar Hashabbat that by leaving him out of the current government, Netanyahu and the Haredi parties had rendered obsolete a bloc of right-wing religious parties that had rallied behind Netanyahu in three elections.

“The ultra-Orthodox made their choices, and now the situation is that there is no right-wing bloc anymore because of them,” he said.

Likud commented by taking Bennett’s words out of context, posting a four-second video of Bennett saying there was “no right-wing bloc anymore” and suggesting he was going to join forces with Yesh Atid, as part of a Likud campaign strategy to undermine the right-wing credentials of Bennett, who on many issues is to Netanyahu’s right.

Yamina commented by charging that both Netanyahu and Lapid were “only dealing in politics” instead of dealing with the pandemic and its economic fallout.

Jewish Home chair Naftali Bennett (L) speaks with Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid in the Knesset plenum, March 11, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A pair of polls published Tuesday night showed Likud remaining the largest in the Knesset, with one survey, however, giving Yamina a shot at forming a coalition without him.

A poll by the Kan broadcaster gave Likud 31 seats and Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina 21, followed by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid with 17. The predominantly Arab-Israeli Joint List got 11 seats; and Blue and White, headed by Benny Gantz, received nine seats. Also with nine seats are Shas and Yisrael Beytenu, while UTJ snagged seven and Meretz six.

A separate poll from Channel 13 showed a closer contest, with Netanyahu maintaining a 27-23 seat advantage over Bennett. The poll gave Yesh Atid 20 seats, the Joint List 11, and Blue and White 10. Yisrael Beytenu gained eight seats, Shas and UTJ seven and Meretz six.

The Channel 13 numbers showed that Bennett could potentially form a narrow right-center coalition with Yesh Atid, Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu. In that long-shot instance, Bennett would likely be prime minister.

Some polls in past weeks have shown Bennett’s Yamina gaining on Netanyahu, who has seen his Likud party fall to as low as 23 seats.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With just over a month remaining until the end of the year, the High Court of Justice instructed the government on Tuesday to explain why it has thus far failed to pass a budget for 2020. The court gave the government 21 days to explain the legality of an amendment to Israel’s Basic Law, passed by legislators in August, which allowed them to delay the passing of the budget until mid-December.

Under the coalition deal between Likud and Blue and White, the two agreed to pass a budget running through 2021. Netanyahu, however, is now insisting on separate budgets for 2020 and 2021, with a failure to pass a budget allowing him to avoid handing over the premiership to Gantz and instead go to elections.

Now, with Gantz having announced a government committee to investigate the so-called submarine affair that has ensnared several of Netanyahu’s allies, the coalition looks closer than ever to falling apart.

Blue and White joined rival Likud to form a coalition in May, following three consecutive elections. Gantz said at the time that he was joining Netanyahu for the benefit of the country to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

But he told Channel 13 on Tuesday, “If Netanyahu continues to put his interests ahead of other interests, we will come to an election, and he will have to explain why there is no budget… I understand that his considerations are personal and not necessarily national.”

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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