Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill to dissolve parliament, a key legislative move that brings the country closer to its fifth election in less than four years.
Members of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s outgoing coalition and the opposition, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been arguing in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, since last week over a dissolution bill.
The coalition said it wants the bill to pass soon after Bennett announced last week that his year-old, ideologically divided eight-party alliance was no longer viable.
But Netanyahu and his allies have been negotiating to form a new Netanyahu-led government within the current parliament that would have prevented new elections.
The parties traded legislative blows but finally agreed late Monday to introduce a bill that would be passed into law by the end of Wednesday.
The opposition’s willingness to dissolve parliament suggests that Netanyahu’s efforts to form a new government have stalled.
On Tuesday morning, the Knesset House Committee approved the bill. It was then brought to the plenum for the first reading, which was adopted 53-0.
Under the bill, Parliament will be dissolved and new elections will be held on October 25 or November 1, with a date to be set after further negotiations.
The bill must then be approved by two more full votes in the Knesset.
Some opposition MPs said there was still a chance to prevent a new general election and reinstate Netanyahu in office by recruiting right-wingers from the outgoing coalition.
“We can still prevent elections by Wednesday midnight,” Bezalel Smotrich of the far-right Religious Zionism party told parliament. “But if they are forced upon us, they will be the dawn of a new day.”
Some factions in the Knesset, including ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that support Netanyahu, fear new polls could see them lose seats or leave parliament entirely, falling below the minimum support threshold of 3.25 percent of all votes cast. according to Israeli media. reports.
‘It is what it is’
Lawmakers were expected to approve a series of separate agreed-upon laws on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of a final vote on the dissolution bill.
Following the dissolution of Parliament, Bennett will hand over power to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in accordance with a power-sharing agreement they struck after last year’s inconclusive elections.
The Bennett coalition, a motley alliance of religious nationalists, secular hawks, centrists, doves and Arab Islamists, was in danger from the start because of its ideological differences.
The final straw, according to the premier, was the failure to renew a measure that ensures that Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank live under Israeli law.
Bennett, the former head of the settler lobbying group, said the measure’s expiration on June 30 would entail security risks and “constitutional chaos.”
Dissolving parliament before the expiration date means the so-called West Bank law will remain in place until a new government takes over.
At what may have been his last public event as prime minister, Bennett said his time in office was “amazing” for Israel after “turbulent election years”.
“I think we’ve done about 10 years of work this year, and I’m damn happy about that,” he said at the Cyber Week conference at Tel Aviv University.
Bennett, a religious nationalist, said his alliance with the centrist Lapid – a man he once promised never to work with – brought stability after years of stalemate.
“I am dissatisfied with the elections; this, of course, is not good for Israel, but this is what it is,” he said.