Israel parliament takes first step towards new election

Israel parliament takes first step towards new election
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, arrives at the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) ahead of a vote to dissolve the Knesset, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 2 2020. (AP)
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Updated 02 December 2020

Israel parliament takes first step towards new election

Israel parliament takes first step towards new election
  • Gantz's decision to side with the opposition, at least for now, highlights the widening cracks in the coalition
  • "Netanyahu didn't lie to me," Gantz said. "He lied to all of you"

JERUSALEM: Israel's precarious coalition government took a first step towards collapse on Wednesday, as lawmakers gave a preliminary approval to a bill dissolving parliament, raising prospects of a fourth election in less than two years.
The measure passed with support from the Blue and White party led by Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, the key partner in the coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a primetime address on Tuesday, Gantz, who is also defence minister, accused Netanyahu of focusing only on his political self-interest, depriving the country of stability -- and a budget -- during unprecedented economic strife caused by the pandemic.
The opposition-sponsored bill earned 61 votes on Wednesday, with 54 voting against.
But that only marks a first step and the bill must still pass several additional parliamentary readings before a new election must be called.
Gantz's decision to side with the opposition, at least for now, highlights the widening cracks in Israel's centre-right coalition, imperilled from the start by mistrust, infighting and public recriminations.
"I had no illusions about Netanyahu," Gantz said in his Tuesday speech.
He reminded Israelis that he battled the prime minister in three consecutive inconclusive elections that did not allow either leader to form a majority government.
Gantz said he decided to agree a unity government with Netanyahu, whom he knew to be a "serial promise-breaker", because he wanted to spare Israelis "an ugly and costly" fourth election, especially as the coronavirus pandemic was accelerating.
"Netanyahu didn't lie to me," Gantz said. "He lied to all of you."
The Netanyahu-Gantz coalition, agreed in April, included strict power-sharing arrangements, with cabinet posts split roughly evenly between allies of both men.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, was to serve as prime minister for the first half of the three-year arrangement.
Gantz had been due to take over as premier in November 2021 but Netanyahu's critics have always insisted he would find a way to sink the coalition before vacating the prime minister's office for Gantz.
The unity deal included multiple triggers that would automatically force new elections, including a failure to pass a budget.
Gantz accused Netanyahu of consistently misleading the public over the budget issue to serve his own political ends.
"Netanyahu committed to pass a budget in August, and naturally did not stand by his word. He promised that it would happen in December and is not following through. Does anyone believe him anymore?" Gantz said.
Gantz directly called on Netanyahu to "put a state budget forward", making clear that if he did so, new elections could be avoided.
Netanyahu released a video shortly before Gantz spoke on Tuesday, urging him to keep the coalition together.
"Now is not the time for elections," Netanyahu said. "Now is the time for unity."
Gantz also courts huge political risks by taking Israel back to the polls.
His Blue and White coalition fractured when he decided to strike a deal with Netanyahu and Gantz's personal popularity has fallen according to a series of recent polls.
His former ally turned critic, Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party, is now the Knesset opposition leader and would be seen by many voters as a more effective anti-Netanyahu force than Gantz in a new election.
In a commentary on Israel's N12 website, political columnist Amit Segal argued that Gantz's political fortunes were plummeting.
Blue and White "can only expect a nightmarishly difficult election campaign," Segal said.


Lebanon inks final deal for 2.1 mln doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Lebanon inks final deal for 2.1 mln doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
Updated 11 min 34 sec ago

Lebanon inks final deal for 2.1 mln doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Lebanon inks final deal for 2.1 mln doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
  • The vaccines are expected to arrive in batches starting February
  • The ministry is also cooperating with the private sector to secure 2 million vaccine doses from Astrazenca and Sinopharm

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker health minister signed a final deal on Sunday to secure 2.1 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine as the country battles a steep rise in infections.
The vaccines are expected to arrive in batches starting February, the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry is also cooperating with the private sector to secure 2 million vaccine doses from Astrazenca and Sinopharm, it added.
Lebanon is under a three-week lockdown that ends on Feb. 1 and a strict 24-hour curfew until Jan. 25 after lax measures over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period led to a spike in cases.
In addition to these deals, Lebanon has also signed up for 2.7 million doses to be delivered through COVAX, the global scheme backed by the World Health Organization to provide vaccines to poorer countries.