Israeli parliament fails to approve budget, establishing early elections

Israel will face its fourth election in two years after its parliament missed Tuesday’s deadline for approving a budget.

The early election, which will take place in March, marks the latest development in a two-year saga in Israel that has already taken voters to the polls three times as prime minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE is involved in an ongoing corruption trial.

Despite the shadow of allegations of corruption, Netanyahu managed to remain in power and eventually formed a unity government with now Defense Minister Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White Party, earlier this year.

The current collapse was fueled by a dispute between Netanyahu and Gantz over the national budget, which is central to the power-sharing agreement between them that would have led Gantz to the role of prime minister in November 2021.

Netanyahu will remain in office at least until a new government is formed after the March elections. He has led Israel since 2009 and served as prime minister from 1996-1999.

Netanyahu was helped by his close relationship with President TrumpDonald Trump Georgia Senate candidate Ossoff supports Trump’s request for K checks The White House wishes Birx well after she announces retirement Pelosi responds to Trump: Let’s press for K checks ‘this week’ MORE, which paid substantial dividends to the Jewish state. The White House transferred the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and helped to establish peace agreements with four majority Arab nations, helping the prime minister to argue that his link with Washington was the key to Israel’s prosperity.

However, the prime minister will have to face a new right-wing competitor, Gideon Saar, who has defected from Netanyahu’s Likud party, and will also have to face anger at having dealt with the rapidly spreading coronavirus. He will also be running during the new Biden government, which should not be as automatically favorable as Trump’s White House and could undermine one of his main arguments for his candidacy for re-election.

Netanyahu and Gantz expressed confidence that they would perform well in the March competition.

Netanyahu said he would win based on his “leadership and achievements” and said that Likud is the only party large enough to form a coalition without left groups. Meanwhile, Gantz tweeted that “Netanyahu is leading us to an election with the sole purpose of not going to jail.”