June 3, 2023

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Israel prepares for a possible fifth election in four years as Prime Minister Bennett moves to dissolve parliament

Israel prepares for a possible fifth election in four years as Prime Minister Bennett moves to dissolve parliament


Prime Minister of Israel Naftali Bennett He actually recalled his time as prime minister after just one year in the job.

Together with his main coalition ally Foreign Minister Yair Lapid – who now appears poised to replace him as leader early next week – Bennett has agreed to introduce a bill to dissolve parliament, which if passed would trigger a general election at a later date. from this year.

The announcement came after weeks of mounting political uncertainty in Israel, but it still came as a huge surprise.

A short statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the move came “after exhausting attempts to stabilize the alliance.” The statement added that a bill would be presented to Parliament sometime next week.

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If passed, Lapid would become the country’s 14th prime minister, in line with the original coalition agreement reached last year. It also means that Israelis will go to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years.

Among the first items on Lapid’s agenda, assuming he becomes a leader, is preparing for US President Joe Biden’s visit next month. A senior US administration official said the president’s trip to the Middle East is still expected to continue despite the political change in Israel.

“We have a strategic relationship with Israel that goes beyond any one government. The president is looking forward to the visit next month,” the White House official said.

Bennett Lapid’s government was sworn in in June last year, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership, which lasted nearly twelve and a half years.

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The coalition is made up of at least eight political parties, and spans the political spectrum, including for the first time an Arab party led by Mansour Abbas.

United in a desire to prevent Netanyahu – whose corruption trial already began in May 2020 – from remaining in power, the disparate coalition partners agreed to put their core differences to one side.

In November, he achieved a major domestic feat, passing the state budget for the first time in nearly four years.

But recent weeks have seen a number of coalition members resign or threaten to resign, leaving the government without a majority in parliament to pass legislation.

The political impasse came to a head earlier this month, when a Knesset vote failed to support the application of Israeli criminal and civil law to Israelis in the occupied West Bank.

Among other things, the regulation, which is renewed every five years, gives Israeli settlers the same rights as citizens of Israel, and is an article of faith for right-wing members of the coalition, including Prime Minister Bennett.

But two coalition members failed to support the bill, which means it failed to pass. If Parliament is dissolved before July 1, the regulation will remain in effect until a new government is formed.

Speaking alongside Lapid on Monday evening, Bennett said their government had removed what he called the bitterness and paralysis of the Netanyahu era, and instead put decency and trust back in center stage.

In the past few weeks, we’ve done everything we can to save this government. And its continued existence, in our view, serves the national interest. Believe me, we’ve looked under every rock. We did this not for ourselves, but for our beautiful country, for you, the citizens of Israel.”

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For his part, Lapid praised Bennett as a brave and innovative leader. He seemed to offer a stark warning of the dangers posed by a return to Netanyahu’s leadership.

What we have to do today is to return to the concept of Israeli unity. Not allowing dark forces to tear us apart from within,” he said.

In contrast, Netanyahu was upbeat, saying the country was smiling after what he called an evening full of news.

“After a determined struggle by the opposition in the Knesset, and great suffering for the public in Israel, it is clear to everyone that the most bleak government in the country’s history is over.”

Netanyahu and his supporters have received support from recent opinion polls, which show his bloc of right-wing and religious parties is performing strongly, although still not enough to secure a majority in parliament.