Knesset passes initial vote to disperse, putting Israel on course for elections

The coalition led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cleared the first major hurdle on its way to ending the current government on Wednesday, securing the first of four votes needed to break up the Knesset and force a snap election.

Unable to agree even on dissolution, the opposition and the coalition submitted several separate versions of the legislation – nine opposition bills and two coalition versions.

The coalition primary passed with 106 votes in favor and one against, while the opposition bills all passed with more than 89 votes. All will now move on to the Knesset committee to determine which committee will prepare them for their next vote, the first reading.

The dissolution process requires four separate votes and two committee reviews, and is not expected to be completed on Wednesday. The Knesset is expected to complete the process next week, possibly as early as Monday.

Despite a relatively soft hour-long debate on the bills, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy rejected attempts to applaud the passage of the 11 preliminary readings to dissolve the Knesset.

“No, no, no, stop. It’s over,” Levy said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with other coalition MKs ahead of a preliminary vote to dissolve the Knesset for new elections, June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

On Monday, Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid surprised the nation by announcing their intention to voluntarily dissolve the Knesset and send Israel to its fifth election since 2019.

After months of political instability that began with losing their one-seat majority in early April and exacerbated by security tensions, Bennett and Lapid said they had come to their decision after attempts to restore order in the coalition have been “exhausted”.

Following the planned dissolution, Lapid will assume the role of caretaker prime minister until a new government is sworn in, after the election.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Speaking on behalf of the government’s dispersal bill, coalition whip Boaz Toporovsky of Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction defended Bennett’s decision to continue with the dispersal, saying it was for the “good of the state”.

“It is a sad day for democracy. We do this with a heavy heart but with all our hearts, because the benefit of the state has always been and will be before any other benefit,” Toporovosky said, adding that it was true even in the face of the “benefit of politics”.

Toporovsky also charged that even in this final phase of dismantling, the opposition was reluctant to cooperate.

“The opposition is still delaying the decision to go to the elections. This is an opposition that has fallen in love with the jamming of the system of government,” Toporovsky said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with MK Boaz Toporovsky (right) during a discussion in the Knesset, June 8, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz MP Mossi Raz said the coalition had faced “unprecedented incitement” amid an uphill struggle.

“From day one, this government faced unprecedented incitement. The opposition has not let go of its strategy of portraying the government as illegitimate… Faced with this incitement, three right-wing deputies who could not bear their power, folded. They are the ones who overthrew the government and we will move on,” he told the plenum.

“After the election, we will have another government in this model, but improved; with an Arab-Jewish partnership, without succumbing to threats from the right,” Raz said.

Likud faction chairman Yariv Levin, who sponsored one of the opposition’s nine dispersal bills, repeated past claims that the Bennett-Lapid government was “weak” and “evil”.

Claiming it was “the worst government in the history of Israel”, Levin added that the government “was established on the basis of blind hatred and an unprecedented misappropriation of voters’ trust”.

His latest claim referred to the fact that the coalition was built on a campaign platform against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and accused right-wing coalition parties of betraying voters by agreeing to join lawmakers. leftists and Arabs.

“We are setting Israel today on a new path. From hate to love,” Levin said.

Likud MK Yariv Levin speaks during a discussion and vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus, along with Levin, opened his remarks by reciting the shehecheyanu, a prayer that celebrates special occasions. Ultra-Orthodox leaders rejoiced at the impending dissolution of the Knesset and government, and many attributed its downfall to divine intervention.

The government, which took office only a year ago, had billed itself as a ‘government of change’, but MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the opposition Joint List (Arab) has accused it of being bad for Arab society.

The Joint List party was previously allied with Ra’am, who broke with the traditional Arab political line to sit with the coalition.

“The only change is the name change, from Netanyahu to Bennett,” Touma-Sliman said.

“Everything else is a continuation of politics, especially with the settlements,” she added.

Although both government and opposition agree that the current coalition’s term is over, a contest has quickly emerged over how the government will fall and under what conditions.

The opposition is making last-ditch attempts to outflank the government and end the coalition not through dissolution, but rather by replacing the current government with one of its own.

The Likud-led opposition and its leader Netanyahu have an opportunity to shorten the election and immediately take the reins of power: if the 55-seat right-wing religious bloc can attract at least six more coalition lawmakers, it can immediately form a new government within the current Knesset.

MK Idit Silman, the former Yamina coalition whip who left the coalition in May, and Religious Zionism’s Simcha Rotman speak ahead of a preliminary vote to dissolve the Knesset for new elections, June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The opposition has pursued this strategy since April, when former coalition whip and MP for Bennett’s Yamina party, Idit Silman, resigned from the coalition and forced it to 60-60 seat parity with the opposition. The opposition reportedly tried to remove other MPs who defected from the right and centrist flanks of the coalition, although two and a half months later only one additional MP – Nir Orbach, also from Yamina – defected.

The coalition is a grand alliance of eight multi-spectral parties, formed to prevent Netanyahu from continuing to lead Israel after 12 consecutive years in power.

Although it has endeavored to avoid ideological roadblocks, political debates and security incidents – touching at the heart of ideological divisions – have made the political alliance increasingly unwieldy.

Discussion and vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 22, 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Opposition leaders allied with Netanyahu have publicly expressed confidence that their parties will win a majority in the election, but behind closed doors they were more fearful of a vote, Channel 12 reported on Tuesday.

At the same time, polls have shown that if the current political blocs remain static, the situation will likely remain deadlocked after the election. Polls have consistently shown parties loyal to Netanyahu doing better in a vote, but with no clear path to a majority. The Arab-majority Joint List, which does not support either side, holds the balance of power.

However, Bennett’s Yamina party has not said it will not sit with Netanyahu. In fact, his two defectors are currently advocating for an alternative Likud-led government, and Bennett’s longtime partner in Yamina — Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked — is reportedly actively pursuing an option to ally with him. the largest right-wing party.

With Yamina seats, a right-religious alliance is strong enough to form a close coalition.

Mansour Abbas, who heads the Islamist Ra’am party, has also said in the past that he would sit with Likud. Abbas, who changed the narrative of Arab politics by joining a coalition, may need to tie his party to the next coalition to give his political revolution another chance to show results at his base.

Netanyahu, for his part, denounced the coalition for relying on Abbas and the majority opposition Joint List party, and said on Monday he would not sit with Abbas.

Netanyahu is credited with sanitizing the idea of ​​bringing Ra’am into a coalition, although he denies doing so. It was widely reported and claimed by Abbas that Ra’am and Likud were in coalition negotiations in the spring of 2021, before collapsing over the objection of Religious Zionism.

Opposition party leaders Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, Aryeh Deri of Shas and Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism all fear far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir will alienate their constituents, Channel 12 also reported. . A far-right firebrand who leads Otzma Yehudit, folded under Smotrich’s religious Zionism, Ben Gvir has grown in popularity and could be in a strong position to make demands of Smotrich.

The elections will probably take place at the end of October or the beginning of November.

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