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PoliticsMiddle East

Israel calls snap election after failing to pass a budget

December 22, 2020

Israel will head to the polls again in March after parliament failed to meet a deadline to pass the budget. It will be the fourth election in two years.

Israel Netanjahu
Image: Yonatan Sindel/AP/picture alliance

Israel's parliament dissolved on Wednesday after failing to meet a deadline to present the budget, triggering fresh elections. The country is set to hold its fourth election in two years on March 23.

Israel's shaky coalition government, which was formed in April, is led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party.

Netanyahu and Gantz were involved in a bitter back-and-forth over the budget the past few weeks, inching the government towards dissolution.

Bildkombo |  Benny Gantz und Benjamin Netanyahu
Gantz (left) and Netanyahu were involved in a bitter exchange over the budget the past few weeks

Gantz had demanded that the government create a budget for 2020 and 2021, to resume a semblance of stability to Israel. However, Netanyahu refused to endorse a budget for 2021. Gantz was reportedly expected to succeed Netanyahu in the prime minister role in November 2021, as part of an agreement when they formed the unity government this year.

Both parties ultimately tried to pass a bill that would give them more time to present a budget. The parliament rejected the bill on Tuesday, triggering a political crisis.

March election disadvantageous for Netanyahu

An election in March puts Netanyahu at a disadvantage over his rivals, as he is set to appear in court in February for his corruption trial.

Israelis cast their vote in round 3 of Israel's 2020 national elections for parliament
Image: picture-alliance/ZumaPress/N. Alon

A vote in June would have been more advantageous for the PM as it would have given time to Israel to receive the vaccine and recover economically. 

Netanyahu faces a political challenge from Gantz and Gideon Saar of the New Hope party, which can cut into the PM's vote bank.

The absence of Trump is also expected to be a disadvantage for Netanyahu, who had a strong relationship with the outgoing US president.

am/aw (AFP, AP)