Israel will dissolve the parliament, will call 5 elections in 3 years

Israel will dissolve the parliament, will call 5 elections in 3 years

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s weakened coalition government announced Monday that it will dissolve parliament and call new elections, paving the way for a possible return to power of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or another long-term politician.

The election will be Israel’s fifth in three years and will bring back the polar Netanyahu, who was the leader of the opposition last year, to the center of the political universe.

“I think the winds have changed. “I feel it,” Netanyahu said.

The previous four elections, which focused on Netanyahu’s ability to rule while facing corruption scandals, have reached a stalemate. While opinion polls suggest Netanyahu, who is now on trial, as the leader, it is not certain that Likud’s party can secure the required parliamentary majority to form a new government.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former ally and aide to Netanyahu, formed his government a year ago with the aim of ending the endless cycle of elections. But the fragile coalition government, which includes parties across the political spectrum, lost its majority earlier this year and has seen riots by lawmakers in recent weeks.

Announcing his plan to disband the government during a nationwide national press conference, Bennett said he had made “the right decision” in difficult circumstances.

“Together, we pulled Israel out of the pit. We have achieved a lot this year. “First and foremost, we put the values ​​of justice and trust at the forefront,” said Bennett, who stands next to his main partner, Secretary of State Yair Lapid. We shifted to a culture of “us”, “together”.

Under their coalition agreement, Lapid, who leads the main center-right Yesh Atid party, will become caretaker Prime Minister until the elections, in which he is expected to be Netanyahu’s main rival.

Together with Bennett, he thanked his partner for his hard work and for putting the country above his personal interests.

“Even if we go to the polls in a few months, our challenges as a state can not wait,” Lapid said. “What we need to do today is return to the concept of Israeli unity. “In order not to let the dark forces separate us from within.”

Bennett’s coalition included a variety of parties, from factions advocating an end to Israeli occupation of 1967 territories claimed by the Palestinians, to hardline parties opposed to the Palestinian state.

Many of the parties had little in common other than a common animosity with Netanyahu. Often described as a political “experiment”, the coalition made history as it became the first to include an Arab party.

Bennett listed his government’s achievements, including passing a national budget for the first time in three years and leading the country in two waves of the coronavirus without imposing a lockdown. Under his watch, Israel’s strained border with the Gaza Strip remained largely quiet, although tensions with the Palestinians escalated in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Its Arab partner, the Islamic Ra’am party, has secured unprecedented budgets to fight poverty, neglect and discrimination in Israel’s Arab sector.

Despite his successes, the coalition eventually disbanded, largely because several members of Bennett’s own hardline party opposed what he felt was pragmatism and moderation.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, has lashed out at the opposition, accusing Bennett of collaborating with “supporters of terrorism” – a reference to his Arab allies in the coalition. A Netanyahu supporter was arrested last month on suspicion of sending death threats and bullets to the Bennett family in the mail.

Palestinians in Israel make up about 20% of the country’s population, but are often regarded as the fifth pillar and have never been part of a coalition. Although Netanyahu himself had also flirted with the same Islamist party last year, the criticism seemed to make some of Bennett’s hardline members feel comfortable.

The final blow to the government was the imminent expiration of a law that provides Israeli settlers in the West Bank with special legal status.

The law supports separate legal systems for Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank, a situation that three prominent human rights groups say equates to apartheid. Israel rejects this claim as an attack on its legitimacy.

Parliament was set to extend the law earlier this month, as it has done for the past 55 years. But the hardline opposition, largely made up of settlers’ supporters, strangely voted against the bill to embarrass Bennett. The Dovish coalition members who are generally opposed to the arrangements voted in favor, hoping to keep the government afloat.

However, a handful of coalition members, including Arab lawmakers as well as hardline nationalists, either abstained or voted with the opposition to defeat the bill and cause the coalition to split.

Bennett, a former settler leader, said there would be “serious security risks and constitutional chaos” if he allowed the law to expire at the end of the month. “I could not let that happen,” he said.

Bennett and Lapid will now present a bill to dissolve parliament in the coming days. Once that passes, the country will head to elections, most likely in October.

The law on settlers remains in force and will not expire if the government collapses.

Netanyahu described the impending dissolution of parliament as “big news” for millions of Israelis and said he would form “a broad nationalist government led by Likud” after the next election.

But he also promised to try to form an alternative government before the parliamentary vote, trying to persuade some of his opponents to support him. The chances of such a thing seemed slim, given their past of never serving under Netanyahu while on trial.

“There is a need to restore the state of Israel and we have the ability to do that,” Netanyahu said.

The break-up threatened to overshadow a visit by President Joe Biden scheduled for next month. A statement from Biden’s National Security Council said he was “looking forward to the visit”.

Israel held four ineffective elections between 2019 and 2021 that were largely referendums on Netanyahu’s ability to rule while on trial for corruption. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

Polls have predicted that Netanyahu’s hardline Likud will once again emerge as the largest single party. However, it remains unclear whether he will be able to gather the necessary support of the majority of MPs to form a new government.

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Institute for the Republic of Israel, said Monday’s developments were “a clear indication that Israel’s worst political crisis did not end when this government was sworn in.”

“While the Bennett-Lapid government has undoubtedly played an important role in passing a budget and moving forward with other important legislation, this ongoing crisis will not end until Israel’s leaders put aside their political differences and enact electoral and constitutional reforms that have long . . »

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Associated Press author Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.

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