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Israel - Knesset Election - 2022

In April 2022, a lawmaker from Naftali Bennett's hardline Yamina party left the coalition, causing it to lose its razor-thin majority of 61 out of the 120 parliamentary seats in the Knesset. Other parliamentarians including from left-wing Meretz and the Ra ' am party either threatened to quit or have not supported the coalition by absenting from important votes in the Knesset.

In June 2021, the coalition was stitched together from across the political spectrum and united by the slogan, "anything but Netanyahu." Its main aim was to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after four inconclusive national elections over the period of two years. Ministers of this ideologically diverse coalition didn't agree on much else but managed to pass a long-overdue state budget and steer the country clear of the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic. This government was also characteristically less loud and divisive in its political culture. But controversial issues, such as the conflict with Palestinians and Israeli occupation were put on the back burner out of concern that they might pressure the coalition.

Israeli lawmakers voted to dissolve parliament, opening the way for the country's fifth election in three years, following weeks of pressure on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's fragile ruling coalition. Bennett will step aside to be replaced by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, his partner in the unlikely coalition of opposites that ended former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's record 12-year rule 12 months ago. Lapid, a former journalist who heads the largest party in the coalition, will serve as interim prime minister until new elections can be held. "We are standing before you today in a moment that is not easy, but with the understanding we made the right decision for Israel," Bennett said in a televised statement as he stood alongside Lapid.

The eight-party coalition, including hard-right, liberal and Arab parties with deep differences on questions from religion to the Palestinian issue, had faced growing strains as its slight majority was cut by defections. The coalition made up of right-wing and religious Jewish nationalists who oppose Palestinian statehood; centrist lawmakers; left-wingers opposing settlements; as well as a conservative Arab party far exceeded the expectations of many in maintaining cohesion for about one year.

The coalition couldn't withstand the failure to extend emergency legislation that applies Israeli law and regulates civil matters in settlements located in the occupied West Bank. The expiration of the current term of the legislation by end of June forced the issue on the government when its coalition had already reached a fragile stage. The automatic extension for many years of applying the law by right-wing and center-left governments suddenly became a political pressure tool. Seizing the opportunity, the Netanyahu-led opposition pushed for a vote against any government-sponsored bill, to further paralyze proceedings on the issue.

"The Netanyahu camp was very united and the coalition camp was very disunited. Having so many different ideologies, different parties from the beginning, this is what many people expected," said Yonatan Freeman, international relations expert at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

"I think the government did very good work over the past year. It's a shame the country has to be dragged into elections," said Defence Minister Benny Gantz, head of a centrist party in the coalition. "But we will continue to function as a temporary government as much as possible," he said.

Lapid said he would not wait until new elections to address the problems facing Israel. "We need to tackle the cost of living, wage the campaign against Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, and stand against the forces threatening to turn Israel into a non-democratic country," he said.

Bennett, a former commando and tech millionaire who entered national politics in 2013, defended his government's record, saying it had boosted economic growth, cut unemployment and eliminated the deficit for the first time in 14 years. But as pressure on the government increased in recent days, he was unable to hold the coalition together and decided to step aside before Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party could table a motion of its own to dissolve parliament.

Netanyahu, who has vowed a comeback despite facing trial for corruption, said Likud would lead the next government and he poured scorn on Bennett, a right-wing politician who was once one of his closest aides. "This is an evening of great news for millions of citizens in Israel," he said. "It's clear to everyone that this government has been the biggest failure in the country's history."

Netanyahu, who is still on trial for several corruption charges, which he denies, framed the partnership with an Arab party as one of the reasons for the latest coalition's failure. He claimed that the government was "dependent on supporters of terror" and that it "neglected the personal security of citizens of Israel." He vowed to form a wide government, and even try to replace the current government before the Knesset is disbanded.

Often described as one of the most divisive figures in Israeli politics, Netanyahu continues to count on a strong support base. Recent polls by national KAN television suggest that his conservative Likud party is leading the list of parties by up to 36 seats. However, some of his former right-wing allies have ruled out joining any government he might lead.

A date for the snap parliamentary election was not announced, but Israeli media reported it was likely to take place in October. Netanyahu can count on the far-right party Religious Zionism which has gained seats in recent months as well as the ultra-Orthodox parties. But polls also suggest that neither Netanyahu's right-wing religious bloc nor the center-left bloc led by Lapid would win an outright majority in the upcoming election and be able to form a coalition government. It's all about voters' stance on Netanyahu. It's not about policy. It's all about emotions. It's all about identity politics. There's absolutely no debate on substance, on any topic.



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Page last modified: 03-07-2022 15:26:09 ZULU