Yamina will vote for bill to dissolve Knesset, in challenge to Blue and White

Bennett’s party accuses Gantz’s of not heeding its own ultimatum that new elections must be held over failure to pass state budget

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett speaks during a Knesset plenary session in Jerusalem on August 24, 2020. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett speaks during a Knesset plenary session in Jerusalem on August 24, 2020. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

The right-wing Yamina party said Monday it would back opposition leader Yair Lapid’s bill to dissolve the Knesset and hold new general elections, criticizing the Blue and White party for staying in the coalition despite the budget crisis.

“Officials in Blue and White are justifying their failure to vote on the law to dissolve the Knesset, claiming Yamina will not support the law in any case, in an attempt to obscure their capitulation on their own ultimatum,” Yamina said in a statement referring to the vote set to take place Wednesday.

“So to be clear, Yamina will vote in favor of any law to dissolve the Knesset. This bad government is running out of time,” the party said.

Naftali Bennett’s Yamina has been surging in the polls amid widespread criticism of Netanyahu’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, although a new survey released Sunday saw Likud regain some of the lost ground.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum on October 19, 2020. (Shmulik Grossman/Knesset Spokesperson’s Office)

Bennett has long had a contentious relationship with Netanyahu but was a part of the prime minister’s right-wing religious bloc until Yamina was left out of the new government when it was formed in May.

Yesh Atid’s Lapid announced last week he would again submit a bill to dissolve the Knesset, taking a swipe at his former allies in the coalition’s Blue and White party, who have threatened that the government could disband if a budget is not approved soon.

“I have no doubt of course that this time Blue and White members will honor their word,” he said sarcastically.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid addresses the Knesset ahead of a vote on ratifying Israel’s normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates (Gideon Sharon/Knesset Spokesperson)

Under the coalition deal between the parties, Likud and Blue and White 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 Blue and White chief Benny Gantz, as he is required to do under their power-sharing deal.

While Likud has insisted that the failure to pass the budget stems from professional difficulties and lack of cooperation from Blue and White, a top ally of Netanyahu’s in the party acknowledged last month that there were political considerations behind the foot-dragging.

Despite Blue and White’s threats, the party appeared unlikely to back Lapid’s proposal, as by doing so, Gantz would forfeit his chance of becoming prime minister in the rotation agreement with Netanyahu.

Alternate Prime Minister, Defense Minister Benny Gantz delivers a statement in theKnesset, on August 24, 2020. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

According to Channel 12 news, the core founding faction of Blue and White, originally the Israel Resilience party, met at Gantz’s home on Sunday night where they decided not to immediately take the country to the polls.

However, according to the unsourced report, the prevailing feeling in Blue and White is that Netanyahu is not interested in the continued functioning of the government and that the Knesset will in any case be dissolved on December 23, the deadline for a new budget.

Last month, the Knesset voted down a no-confidence motion that would have seen Netanyahu replaced as prime minister by Lapid. Members of Yamina stayed away from the vote after taking flak from Likud for backing a similar measure a few weeks before that.

Yamina MKs also did not vote on a proposal to replace Netanyahu as prime minister with Bennett, which likewise was rejected. Following the votes, Yamina rejected Likud’s criticism, saying Bennett and MK Matan Kahana were voting to topple the government, not to back Lapid.

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