Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023

Israel Set To Have Fifth Round Of Elections In Four Years As Parliament Is Dissolved

Israel Set To Have Fifth Round Of Elections In Four Years As Parliament Is Dissolved

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has taken over as caretaker prime minister from Naftali Bennet until the next government is formed after polls in November.

Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett Associated Press (AP)

Israel's parliament Knesset voted to dissolve itself on Thursday, resulting in the collapse of the most diverse coalition government in the country's history and paving way for the fifth general election in less than four years. 

The now-collapsed coalition ranged from the Left, Centre, and Right to even an Islamist Arab party. The "anti-Netanyahu" glue —the resolve to keep former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of 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 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 on 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.

After the fall of the government and parliament's dissolution, Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid has taken over 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. To its credit, it was 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 majority mark of 61 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 parliamentary 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.

He said, "Unfortunately, the curtain has fallen on the 24th Knesset. 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."

(With PTI inputs)


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