Last-Ditch Effort to Avoid Elections on March 23 Fails in Knesset Vote

The Knesset voted down a bill in an overnight session between Monday and Tuesday, December 21-22, which would have postponed a Tuesday-night deadline to approve Israel’s 2020 state budget, after far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan Chief Benny Gantz failed to reach a compromise to avert what would be Israel’s fourth election in two years. Given the bill’s defeat, the Knesset was due to dissolve itself at midnight Tuesday, absent a last-minute surprise deal. Forty-seven MKs voted for the bill that would have postponed the deadline, while 49 voted against it, among the latter all Hadash lawmakers.

Demonstrators call for "Elections Now" near the home of Blue & White head Benny Gantz in Rosh HaAyn on Monday night, December 22.

Demonstrators call for “Elections Now” near the home of Blue & White head Benny Gantz in Rosh HaAyn on Monday night, December 22. (Photo: Crime Minister)

The heads of the Likud and Blue & White assumed that there would be a majority to pass the bill, but were surprised when three MKs from the latter party and one from the former voted against the legislation. MKs Asaf Zamir, Ram Shefa and Miki Haimovich of Blue & White and Michal Shir of the Likud cast their votes against the postponement  while Likud MK Sharren Haskel did not attend the voting session.

Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List) told the plenum before the vote: “Any Knesset where Netanyahu is the only one who can form a government needs to be dissolved,” adding, “We’re going to elections and offering hope for a partnership of all democratic forces – for justice, equality and peace.” “We can’t allow ourselves not to act in a situation where we can prevent the establishment of a far-right government,” said Cassif. “Going back to the people and to elections is the better option in the current situation.”