BRACES FOR FIFTH ELECTION IN LESS THAN FOUR YEARS
Israel’s experiment with the most diverse political alliance ranging from the Left, Centre and Right to even an Islamist Arab party finally came to an end on Thursday with the Knesset voting to disperse itself in an overwhelming 92-0 vote, clearing the way for fresh polls—the fifth in less than four years.
The “anti-Netanyahu” glue (the resolve to keep former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu away from power) that kept the diverse partners with sharp ideological differences together for a little more than a year finally gave in under the weight of its incompatibility.
Uncomfortable members kept the government on its toes all through its stint and chose to go with “their conscience” finally making it untenable while the Netanyahu bloc remained loyal to him, blocking the government even on issues which otherwise gelled along with their ideology.
The decision to dissolve the 120-member Knesset (Parliament) came right up to the wire, as Israel stood on the threshold of entering an unprecedented and chaotic legal situation on the West Bank. Israel set up Israeli legal status for settlers in the West Bank, while creating separate legal treatment for Palestinians living in the same locations, through emergency regulations that were put in place in 1967 and must be renewed every five years.
The current regulations were to expire Thursday at midnight and in one of the events that precipitated the coalition’s demise, the government was unable to muster support to pass the renewal against an opposition determined to block even laws it ideologically supports in order to bring about the government’s end.
Israel’s Knesset voted to disband itself on Thursday morning, sending the country reeling toward its fifth election since 2019.
The last general election was held in March 2021.
Parliament voted to disperse 92–0, setting the next round of elections on November 1. The coalition agreement paves the way for Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, 58, to formally succeed as Prime Minister at midnight when Naftali Bennett, 50, assumes the role of an Alternate Prime Minister.
After the vote, Bennett and Lapid embraced and switched places.
A low-key formal handover ceremony from Bennett to Lapid was set for Thursday afternoon. Lapid will serve as caretaker prime minister until the next government is formed.
It was the first time in Israel’s history that an Arab party was a part of the governing coalition and to its credit not the reason for its downfall despite periodic sharp ideological differences.
Opinion polls showed support for the Netanyahu bloc swelling to 58-60, up from 52, but still falling short of the magical number of 61 required for a simple majority in the 120-member house.
The current political alliances may also see a shift with several parties polling close to the threshold 3.25 per cent required to get Knesset representation.
In a fiery address before the dispersal vote, Netanyahu predicted that he and his allies would return to power, “restore national pride” and “get Israel back on track to success, after what he called the “failed experiment” of the Bennett-led government.
Neither Bennett nor Lapid spoke at the Knesset session on Thursday.
Bennett on Wednesday evening announced his intention to take a break from politics, saying that he would not run in the upcoming elections.
Most of the coalition leaders hailed the experiment as proof that divergent sections of the society could come together to work for the betterment of the country, while the opposition expressed joy at its failure.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that the coalition was proof that it was possible for representatives of all sectors of Israeli society to work together and legislate for the good of all citizens in Israel.
“Unfortunately, the curtain has fallen on the 24th Knesset,” Gantz tweeted.
“We have succeeded in passing many laws on behalf of the citizens of Israel. We have proven that it is possible to come together from all parts of Israeli society,” he added.