Israel’s Parliament Dissolves, Sets 5th Election in 4 Years
Israel’s parliament voted Thursday to dissolve itself and send the country to the polls in November for the fifth time in less than four years.
Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister and architect of the outgoing coalition government, will become the country’s caretaker prime minister just after midnight on Friday. He will be the 14th person to hold that office, taking over from Naftali Bennett, Israel’s shortest serving prime minister.
In a historical move, Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted from power after twelve years of rule. The coalition of ideologily different parties formed the government and it collapsed within a year. It also included an Arab faction.
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After many days of bickering among coalition and opposition lawmakers about the date for new elections, the motion was approved by 92 legislators.
On Nov. 1, new elections will take place.
It marks the formal conclusion of an experiment in political politics in Israel, in which eight parties across all spectrums tried to find common ground in the wake of long gridlock that saw the country hold four elections in two year.
The upcoming elections are an extension of Israel’s protracted political crisis, at the heart of which sits Netanyahu and his ongoing corruption trial. The four deadlocked elections in the previous three years were largely referendums on Netanyahu’s fitness to serve while facing charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu denied all wrongdoing.
Lapid, who is an ex-talk-show host and now heads a centerleft party, will campaign to be caretaker pm to maintain Netanyahu’s job. This could happen as he receives President Joe Biden in the country next week.
Israeli media polls show Netanyahu and his allies winning seats. However, it remains to be seen if they will have sufficient votes to make the Knesset a majority of 61 members. Israel may go back to election if he or anyone else fails in this endeavor.
Bennett declared Wednesday that he was taking a break and will not run in the forthcoming elections. His Yamina party was riven by infighting and splintered following the formation of the government last year as its members broke away in protest of what they considered Bennett’s excessive compromises to more liberal coalition allies.
An emergency law that protected the legal status of Jewish settlers within the occupied West Bank was not renewed by the government earlier in the month. This legislation is considered essential by most Israelis. Since the Knesset dissolution occurred before the close of the month the emergency law can be automatically renewed up to the formation of a government.
“They promised change, they spoke about healing, they tried an experiment, and the experiment failed,” Netanyahu said in an address to parliament ahead of the vote. “We are the only alternative: a strong, stable, responsible nationalist government.”
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By including an Arab party in its governing coalition, the outgoing coalition was the first ever to do so. Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist Ra’am faction, joined the coalition to secure better services and more government funding for Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up some 20% of the population.
Netanyahu and his associates accused the coalition members of being partners with terrorist sympathizers, despite the fact that he was reportedly also interested in the party following the previous elections.
Israel’s Arab citizens face widespread discrimination and are seen by many Jewish Israelis as a fifth column because they have close family ties to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and largely support their struggle for independence.
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