The Israeli government collapses and holds the fifth elections in 3 years

JERUSALEM – Israel’s prime minister said Monday that Israel’s ruling coalition will dissolve parliament before the end of the month, bringing down the government and sending the country to a fifth election in three years.

The decision plunged Israel back into paralysis and threw the political lifeblood of Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing prime minister who left office just a year ago after the current government was formed. Mr Netanyahu is currently on trial on corruption charges but has refused to leave politics, and his Likud party is leading in opinion polls.

Once parliament formally votes to dissolve itself, it will bring down the curtain on one of the most ambitious political projects in Israel’s history: an unwieldy eight-party coalition that united political opponents from the right, left and center, including the first independent Arab. Party to join the Israeli ruling coalition.

But this ideological diversity was also in its wrath.

Differences between the two ideological wings of the coalition, combined with continued pressure from Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, has led to the defection of two right-wing lawmakers – displacing the coalition’s majority in parliament. When many left-wing and Arab legislators rebelled against key votes, the coalition found it impossible to govern.

The final straw was the government’s inability last week to muster enough votes to expand a two-tiered legal system in the West Bank, which has distinguished between Israeli and Palestinian settlers since Israel occupied the territory in 1967.

A number of Arab members of the coalition refused to vote for the system, which should be extended every five years. This prevented the law from being passed and prompted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former settler leader, to collapse the government and thus delay the final vote until after another election.

“We have done everything in our power to preserve this government, the survival of which we consider a national interest,” Bennett, 50, said in a televised address. “It is unfortunate that our efforts did not succeed,” he added.

Expected to take place in the fall, it will be Israel’s fifth snap election since April 2019. It comes at an already sensitive time for the country, after the escalation of Palestinian attacks on Israelis and the escalation of the clandestine war between Israel and Iran. It also complicates diplomacy with Israel’s most important ally, the United States, as the new political crisis unfolded less than a month before President Biden’s first visit to the Middle East as head of state.

Biden will be welcomed by the interim prime minister, Yair Lapid, the current Secretary of State. The terms of the coalition agreement stipulated that if the government collapsed due to right-wing defections, Mr. Lapid, a former centrist broadcaster, would take over as interim leader from Mr. Bennett.

Mr. Lapid will lead the government for at least several months, through the election campaign and the protracted coalition negotiations likely to follow.

In a show of unity Monday night, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Lapid delivered successive speeches of the same stage, both praising the success of an unlikely government that many analysts did not expect to last even for a year.

The fractured alliance formed last June after four inconclusive elections in two years left Israel without a state budget or a functioning government.

Coalition members agreed to work as a team to end this paralysis, and because of their shared desire to oust Mr. Netanyahu. Mr Netanyahu’s refusal to resign despite being tried on corruption charges has alienated many of his natural right-wing allies, prompting some of them to ally with their ideological opponents to remove him from office.

The coalition was cohesive enough to pass a new budget, Israel’s first in more than three years, and make key administrative appointments. It cemented Israel’s relationship with the Biden administration and deepened its nascent relations with key Arab states.

Its leaders and supporters also lauded it for showing that compromise and civility are still possible in a society deeply divided along political, religious and ethnic lines.

In his speech, Bennett said, “We formed a government that many thought was impossible – we formed it in order to stop the appalling decline that Israel was in the midst of.”

“Together, we were able to get Israel out of the hole,” he added.

However, the government was ultimately unable to overcome its contradictions.

Its members clashed regularly over the rights of Israel’s Arab minority, the relationship between religion and state, and settlement policy in the occupied West Bank – clashes that eventually led to two key members defecting, and others voting against government bills.

The new elections offer Mr. Netanyahu another opportunity to win enough votes to form his majority coalition. But his path back to power is far from clear.

Opinion polls suggest that his party, Likud, will easily be the largest in the next parliament, but his allies may not have enough seats to allow Netanyahu to accumulate a parliamentary majority. Some parties may also agree to work with Likud only if Netanyahu steps down as party leader.

This dynamic could lead to months of protracted coalition negotiations, returning Israel to the stagnation into which it fell before Mr. Netanyahu left, when his government lacked the cohesion to enact a national budget or hold important civil service positions, and the country held four elections in two years.

Through it all, Mr. Netanyahu is expected to remain on trial, a process that continues for years and is unaffected by new elections, which will likely only end if he agrees to a plea bargain, is found guilty or innocent, or if prosecutors withdraw their decisions. shipment. Despite promises by some coalition members, the outgoing government failed to pass legislation preventing a candidate accused of criminal offenses from becoming prime minister.

Critics fear Netanyahu will use the return to office to pass laws that could obstruct the trial, an accusation he has denied.

In a video posted on social media on Monday, Mr. Netanyahu celebrated the government’s decision and criticized its record.

“This evening is great news for the citizens of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

“This government has finished its course,” he added. “A government that has relied on supporters of terrorism, that has abandoned the personal security of the citizens of Israel, has raised the cost of living to unprecedented levels, and has imposed unnecessary taxes, has endangered our Jewish entity. This government will go home.”

Palestinian-Israeli lawmakers celebrated the government’s collapse for opposing reasons – because they said it did little to change the lives of Palestinians.

Aida Touma Suleiman, an opposition lawmaker and member of the Palestinian minority in Israel, said in a statement: “This government has implemented an extreme right-wing policy of expanding settlements, destroying homes, and carrying out ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories. It threw crumbs at Arabs in exchange for compromising basic political principles.”

Mr. Lapid, 58, heads the Yesh Atid party, the second largest party in the country. (Likud, led by Netanyahu, is the largest.) After Mr. Netanyahu failed to muster a majority in the previous elections in March 2021, Mr. Lapid was given the opportunity to form a government.

To persuade Mr. Bennett to join his coalition, Lapid allowed Mr. Bennett to take the first role as prime minister despite leading a much smaller party, because Mr. Bennett was seen as more palatable than the right-wing of the coalition.

Lapid, a former journalist and popular TV host, entered parliament and government for the first time in 2013 as a surprise in that year’s election, becoming finance minister in a government led by Netanyahu.

Lapid – a former amateur boxer – has long been considered by many Israelis a political lightweight, particularly in terms of dealing with complex security issues, including countering Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But he has since served as Minister of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Strategic Affairs and Alternate Prime Minister, and has served as the leader of the opposition.

The son of Yosef Lapid, a former minister and Holocaust survivor, and Shulamit Lapid, a novelist, have expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But to secure the support of Mr. Bennett, who opposes Palestinian statehood, he agreed not to negotiate with the Palestinians about statehood for the duration of their alliance.

Gabe Sobelman Reporting contributed from Rehovot, Israel.

Leave a Comment