Israelis will soon have to go to the polls for the fourth time in two years if the current coalition parties Likud and Blue and White failed to reach a budget agreement.
The current Knesset will be dissolved automatically if the parties have not yet settled.
A bill to give the parties of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White) an extra week in parliament did not pass 49 of the 120 votes. If the current deadline is not met, new elections will be held in Israel on March 23.
The coalition between rivals Netanyahu and Gantz has been in trouble since its inception, but recently tensions have grown. In the coalition agreement, it was agreed that the government would adopt a two-year budget for 2020 and 2021.
Netanyahu is backtracking, however, and now says he wants to set a budget for the current year only due to the corona crisis. Critics argue that Netanyahu wants to avoid having to give way to Gantz as prime minister in the coming fall, as agreed in the coalition agreement.
Netanyahu and Gantz also clashed previously over the appointment of judges and the powers of the Justice Secretary. In addition, Netanyahu is under a criminal trial for corruption, with Gantz accusing his coalition partner of doing everything to get out of the lawsuit.
New elections could be painful for both the right-wing Likud party and the centre-right Blue and White, now that former minister and former Likud member Gideon Sa’ar wants to join the brand-new right-wing party New Hope – Unity for Israel.
Last year, Sa’ar took on Netanyahu in the election for Likud leadership. The fact that a reigning prime minister is challenged is highly unusual in that party.