Israel’s parliament dissolves and holds 5th election in 4 years

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s parliament voted to dissolve itself on Thursday, marking the end of a year-old experimental coalition government and sending the country to the polls in November for the fifth time in less than four years.

Yair Lapid, Israeli foreign minister and architect of the outgoing coalition government, will become the country’s acting prime minister just after midnight on Friday. He will be the 14th person to hold the post, succeeding Naftali Bennett, Israel’s shortest prime minister.

After the vote, Lapid kissed Bennett in front of the two swapped chairs. He posted “thank you, Naftali, my brother” on Twitter.

The government crumbled just over a year after it was formed in a historic move that saw longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu ousted after 12 years in power by a coalition of ideologically diverse parties, the first to include a faction Arab.

The dissolution motion passed with 92 MPs in favor and none against, after days of wrangling between coalition and opposition MPs over the date of new elections and other last-minute legislation.

New elections will take place on November 1.

The move officially ends a political experiment in which eight parties across the Israeli spectrum tried to find common ground after a prolonged period of stalemate in which the country held four elections in two years.

The upcoming elections are an extension of Israel’s protracted political crisis, at the heart of which is 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 abuse of confidence. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the Knesset ahead of a vote on a bill to dissolve parliament, at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Lapid, a former talk show host who heads a center-left party, is expected to campaign as caretaker prime minister to keep the job as the main alternative to Netanyahu, and is likely to get a quick boost when he will welcome President Joe Biden to the country next week.

Israeli media polls show Netanyahu and his allies are set to win seats, although it is unclear whether they would have enough to form a 61-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset. If neither he nor anyone else succeeds, Israel could go to the elections again.

On Wednesday, Bennett said he would take a break from politics and would not run in the next election. His Yamina party was torn by infighting and splintered after forming government last year as its members split to protest what they saw as Bennett’s excessive compromises with more liberal coalition allies .

A view shows the plenum of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
A view shows the plenum of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The fatal blow came earlier this month, when the government failed to renew an emergency law that preserves the special legal status of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, legislation most Israelis consider essential. With the Knesset dissolved before the end of the month, the emergency law is automatically renewed until a new government is formed.

“They promised change, they talked about healing, they tried an experiment and the experiment failed,” Netanyahu said in a speech to parliament ahead of the vote. “We are the only alternative: a strong, stable and responsible nationalist government.”

The outgoing government coalition made history by being the first to include an Arab party. 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 around 20% of the population.

Netanyahu and his allies have accused coalition members of associating with terrorist sympathizers. His allies have provided little evidence to support these claims, citing only Abbas’ Islamist roots, and Netanyahu himself also reportedly courted the party after last year’s previous elections.

Arab citizens of Israel 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 broadly support their struggle for peace. ‘independence.

Joseph Krauss contributed to this report.


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