JERUSALEM – With Benjamin Netanyahu unable to form a governing coalition, the Israeli Parliament voted on Wednesday to dissolve itself and convene new elections in September.
Minutes after the deadline for forming a new government, Netanyahu, currently the acting prime minister and head of the Likud party, managed to get the Knesset to vote 74-45 to dissolve itself, thus avoiding a situation where President Reuven Rivlin would have had to assign the task of forming a government to another lawmaker, presumably Netanyahu’s main rival, Benny Gantz.
Rivlin had warned earlier that, if Netanyahu proved unable to form a new Likud-led governing coalition, he would have to decide between assigning that task to another lawmaker or calling new elections, but the vote on Wednesday evening precluded that situation and means that Israelis will have to return to the polls for the second time this year, after the April 9 election.
This is the first time that this situation has arisen in Israel since the country’s creation, and now the government will incur big expenses for organizing the election and significant economic losses on the mandated national day off from work so that people can go to the polls.
The top leaders of the main opposition Blue and White political alliance, which Gantz heads, who for days have been insisting that the task of forming a new government be given to another politician, said they were disappointed with the vote and accused Netanyahu of staging an attack on democracy.
The dispute blocking the formation of a new coalition, and which led to the calling of new elections, revolves around the text of the obligatory military recruitment law for ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The law was demanded by the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party, headed by former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and rejected by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that are key members of the coalition Netanyahu had been trying to cobble together
He tried to mediate among the parties in the dispute but all his proposals were rejected in the negotiations that lasted until just minutes before the Knesset vote was held and the deadline for forming a new government coalition.