Sa’ar Bolts Likud as Election Fears Loom; Israel to Begin Covid-19 Vaccinations

Israel continues to face the possibility of a fourth round of national elections in two years. On December 2, the Knesset advanced by a vote of 61 to 54 a preliminary measure that would dissolve the current coalition government and put the country on a path to yet another round of elections. The bill did not take immediate effect, however, leaving the parties time to negotiate a solution. Reported by The Washington Post. Read more… Yet, on December 7, the Knesset House Committee advanced legislation to dissolve the parliament and set elections for March 16, 2021. The bill passed 10-7 in committee and will advance to the full Knesset. The Blue and White party voted alongside the opposition in advancing the bill. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Netanyahu that he would not be prime minister again if a fourth round of elections were held. In a Facebook post December 11, Gantz stated, “At the end of the fourth election, I know that Netanyahu will not be prime minister of the state of Israel and he also needs to know this.”

Gideon Sa’ar, widely recognized as the Likud’s successor to Benjamin Netanyahu, sent shockwaves through Israeli politics when on December 8 he bolted the Likud and formed his own right-wing party called “New Hope.” Sa’ar was a leading Likud minister. Making his announcement, Sa’ar blasted sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud, saying the party had become a “tool for the personal interests of the person in charge, including matters related to his criminal trial.” Sa’ar also accused Likud of fostering a “cult of personality” around Netanyahu. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Sa’ar’s new party got an immediate boost as Derech Eretz party lawmakers Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser said they would join the new party. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Netanyahu was quick to respond, claiming Sa’ar left Likud to save his political career. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Polls the next day showed that Sa’ar’s New Hope would pick up 15 to 18 seats in the Knesset if Israel holds elections. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel hopes to begin vaccinating Israeli’s against the coronavirus soon. The government moved up the date to begin vaccinations from December 27 after approval in the U.S. of the Pfizer vaccine. Visiting a mass-immunization station in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The end of the pandemic is in sight. Until then I ask [everyone] to observe the rules,” adding that “What I can tell you today is that we are on the way to bringing forward the vaccinations.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…