JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli lawmakers are set to begin marathon voting on Wednesday to try and pass the first national budget in three years, a major test for the fractious coalition government that was sworn in earlier this year after four divisive elections.
Failure to pass the budget by November 14 would bring down the government and trigger yet another election, giving former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his best opportunity to swiftly return to power.
The coalition includes eight parties from across the political spectrum and has a razor-thin margin of 61 seats in the 120-member assembly. If Netanyahu and his allies can peel away just one defector the budget could fail to pass, but most expect it will, if only because the coalition is firmly united against him.
"The moment the budget passes, this buys the government stability for several years, and what it means for the opposition is disintegration," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier this week. "They are desperate to topple the budget and to take us to a fifth election, this is their goal."
The Knesset, Israel's parliament, is expected to begin voting on hundreds of amendments in a marathon session leading up to a final vote Thursday or Friday. The government has given itself a 10-day window ahead of the hard deadline in case there are any surprises.
Israel entered a prolonged political crisis after elections in April 2019, when a right-wing party that had been allied with Netanyahu refused to sit in a government with him. The next two years brought three more hard-fought elections with no clear victor, as well as Netanyahu's indictment on serious corruption charges, which he denies.
The government formed in June includes parties from across the political spectrum united by little more than a desire to avoid another Netanyahu-led government or more elections. But the fragile coalition is expected to significantly extend its rule if it passes the budget.