Moran Azulay, Attila Somfalvi, Ynet News
The Knesset on Wednesday afternoon approved the preliminary vote on a bill to dissolve itself, threatening to plunge Israel into its fourth election in less than two years.
The bill, which passed by 61 votes to 54, requires three additional successful readings in the Knesset before it passes and new elections must be called, giving coalition leaders a chance to resolve their differences that for now are centered around the state budget.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday made a bombshell announcement that his Blue & White party would vote in favor of the bill.
He accused his coalition partner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of consistently misleading the public over a budget row to serve his own political ends.
The unity government has sparred over the structure of the state budget with Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition partners willing to vote only on a very short term version of the 2020 budget, contrary to the coalition agreement that calls for a two-year budget that includes 2021.
If the long-term budget is passed, Netanyahu would no longer have the 2021 budget as a trump card and would be forced to commit to the rotation agreement that would mean Gantz taking over as prime minister next year.
But if the government collapses because a budget has not been passed, Netanyahu would remain as prime minister throughout the three-month election campaign and until a new coalition is formed.
Photo: Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid (Photos The Knesset)