Exactly one month after the 21st Knesset was sworn in, a majority of the Knesset voted late Wednesday night to disperse and initiate an unprecedented repeat election on September 17.
Can you imagine what it would be like to win one of the biggest elections in the 71 year history of regathered Israel, making you the only 5-time prime minister, only to then fail to follow Israeli law and form a new coalition forcing you back to do the elections all over again? Welcome to Benjamin Netanyahu’s new reality.
Never before in the entire history of regathered Israel has this type of situation occurred. So why is it happening now? It’s a result of Israel’s fractious parliamentary system, strong egos and lingering resentments. Where this one winds up is anyone’s guess.
Israel Goes Back To Elections As Netanyahu Fails To Form Coalition
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Likud faction ahead of the vote that he had not succeeded in reaching a compromise with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman on the controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill, and that he had also tried unsuccessfully to woo MKs from the opposition to join his government.
“The State of Israel is going to elections because of the Likud’s refusal to accept our proposal,” Liberman said as he entered the Knesset plenum. “This is a complete surrender of the Likud to the ultra-Orthodox. We will not be partners in a government of Jewish law.”
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, head of the Likud’s negotiating team, told reporters “it’s over,” as he arrived at the Likud meeting after his last negotiation had failed.
Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin said that there was no choice but to hold new elections, due to Liberman’s intransigence and refusal to accept “1,000 compromises” that had been offered throughout the last week.
The vote – taken just after the midnight deadline by which Netanyahu needed to tell President Reuven Rivlin whether he had been able to form a governing coalition – was 74 to 45 in favor of dispersing.
Opposition MKs shouted “shame, shame, shame” in unison ahead of the vote.
The Likud initiated the bill to dissolve the Knesset rather than give Rivlin a chance to appoint someone other than Netanyahu to form a government.
In presenting the bill to the Knesset, Likud MK Miki Zohar said that he is “disappointed by the situation, but we were forced into it.” He admitted that the decision “would not be remembered positively in our history.”
“The Left asks us why we didn’t give [Blue and White leader] Benny Gantz a chance to form the coalition,” Zohar said. “Two and a half million people voted as if they had two votes, for their party and for [Netanyahu]… despite knowing about the [pre-indictment] hearing [for the prime minister on corruption charges]. They didn’t want Gantz.”
According to Zohar, those calling to let Gantz form the government are “saying to give the opportunity to the minority to form the government at the expense of the majority. The majority rules, while the minority has rights. That is the meaning of democracy.”
The bill called the election for September 17, but there were several other options the coalition was set to vote on in the second reading. Netanyahu asked the other parties to back September 17, because that is what Yisrael Beytenu preferred, and he needed them to have a majority in favor of dissolving the Knesset.
In the unsuccessful coalition talks, the Likud had proposed that as soon as the government would be formed, Liberman’s original conscription law would be presented, as written and in his language, for the approval of the Knesset plenum. After its approval, there would be more negotiations when the law would be prepared for its final readings.
If that agreement is not reached by the end of July, the party said, and in accordance with the decision of the High Court of Justice, the current arrangement that has exempted haredim from being drafted would expire, and the compulsory service law would apply to all. The ultra-Orthodox parties would therefore have to choose between Liberman’s version of the law or a return to the original law, which means full mobilization for haredim, the Likud said.
“The proposal has now been submitted to the parties, and we await their positive response in order to form a right-wing government tonight and prevent unnecessary elections,” the party wrote. In response, United Torah Judaism said that it would back another party to lead the coalition.
“We won’t retreat beyond what we have agreed to,” UTJ leader Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said in his initial response to the Likud statement. “I still believe that a government can be formed. I’m on my way to sign on the coalition agreement.”
Liberman also initially rejected the proposal, saying it was not exactly what he had said all along about the conscription bill needing to be passed into law as is.
The proposal was made after the Likud reported that it had secured agreements with 60 MKs from the Likud, Kulanu, UTJ, Shas and the Union of Right-Wing Parties, leaving it only one MK short of a majority coalition.
After Kulanu denied that it had signed any documents and insisted it won’t sign unless the coalition would include 61 MKs, the Likud said the deal with Kulanu was complete and ready to be signed, pending Liberman joining the government. READ MORE