JERUSALEM – Israel’s weakened coalition government decided on Monday to dissolve parliament and call new elections, the country’s fifth in three years.
The vote, expected this fall, could see the return of a nationalist religious government led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or another prolonged period of political deadlock. The last four elections, which have involved Netanyahu’s fitness to govern while he is on trial on corruption charges, have ended in deadlock.
In a nationally televised press conference, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said dissolving the government would not be easy, but called it “the right decision for Israel.”
The fragile coalition government, which includes parties from across the political spectrum, lost its majority earlier this year and has faced rebellions from various lawmakers in recent weeks.
Secretary of State Yair Lapid will take over on an interim basis in a jointly announced agreement.
Bennett listed a number of achievements and promised an “orderly” transition.
Lapid thanked Bennett for putting the country above his personal interests.
“Even with elections coming up in a few months, our challenges as a state cannot wait,” Lapid said.
Bennett formed the eight-party coalition in June 2021 after four consecutive inconclusive elections.
It included a variety of parties, from peaceful factions supporting an end to the Israeli occupation of the country conquered in 1967, to hardline parties opposed to Palestinian independence. Often described as a political “experiment,” it made history by becoming the first Israeli coalition government to include an Arab party.
The alliance has had a number of achievements, including passing the first national budget in several years and tackling two coronavirus outbreaks without imposing lockdowns.
But it eventually broke up, in large part because several members of Bennett’s hard-line party objected to what they believed to be compromises made by him to keep the coalition afloat and his perceived moderation.
The immediate reason for Bennett’s decision was the impending expiry of laws giving special legal status to settlers in the West Bank. If these laws were to expire, settlers would be subject to many of the military laws that apply to the territory’s more than 2 million Palestinians.
Parliament was due to vote on extending the laws earlier this month. But the hard-line opposition, made up largely of settler supporters, paradoxically voted against the law to embarrass the government. Dove members of the coalition, who normally oppose the settlements, voted in favor of the bill in hopes of keeping the government afloat.
With the dissolution of Parliament, the laws remain in force. Bennett, a former settler leader, said if he had allowed the laws to expire, there would have been “serious security risks and constitutional chaos.”
“I couldn’t let that happen,” he said.
The breakup threatened to overshadow a visit by President Joe Biden scheduled for next month. The US embassy said it expects the visit to go ahead as planned.
Netanyahu called the forthcoming dissolution of parliament “great news” for millions of Israelis and said he would form “a broad nationalist government led by the Likud” after the upcoming elections.
Israel held four inconclusive elections between 2019 and 2021, mostly referendums on Netanyahu’s capacity to power while he was on trial for corruption. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing.
Opinion polls predict Netanyahu’s hard-line Likud will once again emerge as the largest single party. However, it remains unclear whether he would be able to muster the necessary support from a majority of lawmakers to form a new government.
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/06/20/israel-coalition-agrees-to-dissolve-hold-new-elections/ Israel wants to dissolve parliament, call 5th elections in 3 years