The Israeli parliament dissolved on Wednesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s broken government coalition failed to pass a budget. This triggered a fourth election in two years and renewed an unprecedented political crisis.
The coalition led by Netanyahu and his former electoral rival, Defense Secretary Benny Gantz, had been on the path to collapse for weeks, undermined by mutual sharpness and distrust.
With the dissolution of parliament, the Knesset, elections could be held as early as March 23, likely forcing Netanyahu to stand for re-election while the coronavirus pandemic continues and his long-awaited corruption process intensifies.
The coalition, led by Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and Gantz’s centrist blue-white party, had until midnight to approve a 2020 budget.
Otherwise the dissolution of parliament will be enforced by law, Knesset spokesman Uri Michael told AFP on Tuesday.
The deadline marks the end of a difficult political marriage between Netanyahu and Gantz that faced three inconclusive elections in April and September 2019 and again in March.
They agreed to form a so-called unity government in April.
Gantz has said he never trusted Netanyahu but wanted to spare the Israelis a fourth choice, especially as the pandemic was accelerating.
The three-year coalition agreement stipulated that Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for 18 months and that Gantz would take office in November 2021.
Gantz urged the government to approve a budget for 2020 and 2021, arguing Israel and the coalition needed stability.
But Netanyahu refused to approve a budget for 2021.
This is a political tactic to keep the coalition unstable, which makes it easier for him to sink the government before he has to give Gantz power.
“The reason we are getting closer to an election is because Netanyahu has refused to pass a statutory budget and keep political agreements so that he can stay in power for the duration of his trial,” said Yohanan Plesner, the chief of the Israel think tank of the Democracy Institute.
Late on Sunday, Blue and White said they had reached an agreement with Likud on a bill to give more time to approve the budget.
But the Knesset rejected the bill on Tuesday after Netanyahu and Gantz left another bitter round behind them.
Likud and Blue and White legislators both voted against the coalition proposal.
Gantz, who is currently in precautionary coronavirus quarantine, could not vote.
“Risk all round”
Both Netanyahu and Gantz face significant political risks in new elections, especially if they take place in March.
Political commentators said Netanyahu always planned to force an election before leaving the post of prime minister for Gantz, but preferred a voting date in June or later.
That would have left more time to vaccinate the public against the novel coronavirus and hopefully propel Israel’s economy towards recovery.
An election in March would force Netanyahu to campaign in February if he is to appear in court several times a week for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
He is accused of accepting inappropriate gifts and attempting to trade favors with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage, but denies wrongdoing.
Netanyahu is also facing a new challenge from influential right-wing winger Gideon Saar, who left Likud to start his own New Hope party.
Several polls suggest that Saar Netanyahu could lose significant support if elections were held soon.
Netanyahu is expected to highlight recent successes, including a number of US-brokered normalization deals with former Arab rivals.
But he will no longer boast of his iron alliance with outgoing President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Gantz’s political fate has sunk.
Blue and white broke on a deal with Netanyahu, and recent polls suggest the party would only win a handful of seats if elections were to come soon.
Gantz’s former ally, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, became opposition leader in parliament, but voter polls show that Lapid would struggle to form a government.
Overall, the outlook for center-left parties appears bleak, which may complicate the attempt by President-elect Joe Biden’s administration to renew Israel’s commitment to the Palestinians.
“We are taking part in this election with a clear advantage in polls for the political right,” said IDI’s Plesner, emphasizing the “growing possibility” that a right-wing camp will emerge that refuses to accept Netanyahu as prime minister.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)