Israel’s ruling coalition announced on Monday that it would dissolve parliament, or the Knesset, next week, meaning the government will be dissolved and the country will hold elections for the fifth time in three years.
Here’s a look at why this happens and what comes next.
The Israeli government is collapsing – again?
Israel’s government – a mix of eight parties including the right, centrists and a party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel – has been fragile since taking office just over a year ago.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, along with his coalition partner, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, formed the coalition in June 2021 after two years of political deadlock, ending the former prime minister’s record 12 years in power Benjamin Netanyahu.
But contradictions within the coalition have come to a head, and Monday’s decision came after weeks of speculation that the coalition was on the verge of demise.
The main thing that united them was the opposition to Netanyahu, but ultimately that was not enough to keep them together.
What pushed the coalition over the edge?
With a wafer-thin parliamentary majority and divisions on major political issues such as Palestinian statehood, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and issues of religion and state, the alliance began to fracture when a handful of members defected.
In April, the coalition lost its majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament when a member of Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party, Idit Silman, announced his departure.
In recent weeks, another trickle of defections and rebellions has left Bennett’s coalition without the ability to pass laws, raising questions about how long it can survive.
The Joint List has also threatened to withdraw in protest against Israeli attacks on Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, as well as continued raids in the occupied West Bank that have killed Palestinians.
Bennett had already warned of a possible collapse earlier this month after Nir Orbach, another member of the Yamina party, said he would stop voting with the governing coalition.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came two weeks ago when a bill extending Israeli civil rights to settlers in the occupied West Bank was defeated in parliament.
The Settlers Act, which should normally enjoy broad support in parliament and which has been renewed several times over the past 50 years, has failed due to the increasingly bitter climate between the government and the opposition , the latter choosing to vote against a law she supports in order to further weaken the government.
In the end, the contradictions within the government coalition proved too insurmountable, especially since the government had very little room for maneuver in parliament, and an opposition determined to overthrow it.
What happens afterwards?
Israel’s parliament will meet on Tuesday to present a draft resolution for its dissolution and for the holding of early elections.
If parliament is dissolved, as expected, Bennett will step down to be replaced by Lapid as caretaker prime minister until new elections can be held, as part of the deal they had with the coalition.
Some political observers believe there remains a chance that an alternative government could be formed without going to another election, as right-wing Israeli parties on both sides of the government-opposition divide will be under pressure to unite, given of the right-wing majority in parliament.
Many Israelis are tired of the election, and the prospect of another before the end of the year could lead to more apathy.
However, if the country heads for new general elections, they will have to be held within 90 days of the dissolution of parliament, with the possible date of October 25 already brought forward.
The new vote could set the stage for Netanyahu’s return to power.
Netanyahu said he would return to office. “I think the winds have changed. I feel it,” he said.
Netanyahu’s camp is now courting individual members of the Knesset, as well as entire parties, in an effort to get them to quit.
Opinion polls have predicted that Netanyahu’s hardline Likud will once again emerge as the largest single party. But it remains unclear whether he would be able to muster the required support from a majority of lawmakers to form a new government.
Ultimately, it will come down to whether Netanyahu, who continues to be accused of corruption and who is a hugely controversial figure in Israeli politics, even on the right, will be able to convince enough politicians to support him again.
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