New elections for Israel after Netanyahu’s coalition failure
Knesset parliament votes to disperse as deadline to form government expires
Israel’s parliament voted last night to hold fresh elections after Benjamin Netanyahu failed so seal a coalition deal.
On a tense evening, the Knesset voted 74-75 to disperse and call new elections, set for 17 September. Coalition negotiations had floundered after the far-right Avigdor Lieberman, previously a Netanyahu ally, refused to back the prime minister.
Israeli news site Ynet says the development “marked a dramatic downturn for Netanyahu and sent the longtime leader’s future into turmoil,” while the Jerusalem Post pointed out that this was “the first time in Israeli history that a candidate for prime minister failed to form a coalition”.
After he was unable to gather support from Lieberman’s ultranationalist party, Yisrael Beiteinu, Netanyahu lashed out at his rival. “He has dragged the country to unnecessary elections due to his own political ego,” he said.
“The public chose me to lead the state of Israel. We will run a sharp and clear election campaign and we will win.”
Netanyahu’s anger last night contrasts with his jubilant tone in April when he appeared to capture a fourth consecutive term in the country’s election. His Likud Party won 35 of the 120 seats on offer in the Knesset.
No party has ever won a majority in the 120-seat parliament and the country has always had coalition governments.
“At the heart of the impasse was a military conscription bill governing exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students,” says the BBC.
Lieberman had made it a condition of allying with ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that they change their military draft exemptions.
Netanyahu will remain in power until September’s vote but he has some tough months ahead. The election is likely to be a tough re-run of April’s closely fought campaign, when he faced perhaps his toughest ever rival - former military chief of staff Benny Gantz.
The PM also faces fraud and bribery charges, and allegations of attempting to secure for himself immunity from prosecution.
Netanyahu is accused of accepting gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensing favours to try to secure favourable media coverage. The Supreme Court will determine whether he must resign. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.