Date
21 July 2019
The Sept. 17 ballot is a big blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had claimed victory in the last election on April 9. Photo: Reuters
The Sept. 17 ballot is a big blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had claimed victory in the last election on April 9. Photo: Reuters

Israel faces fresh election after Netanyahu fails to form govt

Israeli lawmakers voted to dissolve parliament early on Thursday, paving the way for a new election after veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government before a midnight deadline, Reuters reports.

The Sept. 17 ballot will be Israel’s second this year. It spells unprecedented upheaval even for a country used to political infighting and is a big blow to Netanyahu, who had claimed victory in the last election on April 9.

Parliament’s 74-to-45 vote took place just minutes after a midnight deadline for Netanyahu to assemble his fifth government.

The turmoil arose – officially, at least – from a feud over military conscription between Netanyahu’s presumed allies: ex-defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, a far-right secularist, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.

Those parties want young religious scholars exempted, en masse from mandatory national service. But Lieberman and many other Israelis want them to share the burden.

Netanyahu denounced the draft spat as a “Kafkaesque” ruse.

“It’s just unbelievable. Avigdor Lieberman is now part of the left,” he told reporters. “It is perfectly clear that he wanted to topple this government … to cobble together a few more votes.”

Yet the new ballot represents less of a setback for Netanyahu than the alternative in which Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, could have asked another politician to try and form a ruling coalition.

Faced with the prospect of having to step aside and watch one of his political rivals push him to the margins, Netanyahu instead drummed up votes to dissolve the 120-seat Knesset.

Netanyahu signaled he will run in the next election, telling reporters: “We will win.” The spokesman for his conservative Likud party sent out a text emoji showing a smiling Netanyahu with the message: “Get out and vote.”

But the failed coalition building of a 69-year-old leader who just weeks ago was hailed by supporters as a political “magician” may open rifts and stir up challenges within Likud.

The premier is also dogged by potential criminal charges in three corruption cases. He has denied wrongdoing and is due to argue at a pre-trial hearing in October against any indictment.

A new election could further complicate US efforts to press ahead with President Donald Trump’s peace plan in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even before it has been announced, Palestinians have spurned it as a blow to their statehood hopes.

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CG

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