Mon | Nov 30, 2020

Israel faces repeat 2019 election after parliament dissolves

Published:Friday | May 31, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before voting in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem on Wednesday, May 29.

JERUSALEM (AP):

Israel embarked yesterday on an unprecedented snap election campaign – the second this year – after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition and instead dissolved parliament.

In what seemed an improbable scenario just days ago, Israel’s newly elected Knesset dissolved itself in an early-morning 74-45 vote and set a new election date for September 17.

The parliament’s disbanding comes just a month after it was sworn in and sets the stage for a second election in the same year – a first in Israeli history.

The developments were a shocking setback for Netanyahu, who had appeared to secure a comfortable win in last month’s election. But he was unable to build a parliamentary majority because his traditional ally, Avigdor Lieberman, refused to bring his Yisrael Beiteinu faction into the coalition.

Netanyahu’s Likud party excoriated Lieberman, accusing him of betraying voters, abandoning his right-wing ideology and selfishly carrying out a personal vendetta against his former patron Netanyahu.

BLIND FOLLOWERS

Lieberman, a former top aide to Netanyahu who for two decades has alternated between a close alliance and bitter rivalry with his former boss, delivered his own rebuke Thursday. A former defence minister and foreign minister under Netanyahu, he appeared to break with him for good by alleging that Likud Party members were blind Netanyahu followers who needed professional help.

“This has nothing to do with ‘the right’,” Lieberman, a West Bank settler, said at a press conference. “This is about a cult of personality and not any political ideology.”

Netanyahu, who has led Israel for the past decade, now faces, another challenge to his lengthy rule. It comes as he prepares for a pre-indictment hearing before criminal charges are expected to be filed against him in a series of corruption cases.

Assuming they would sweep into power again, Netanyahu’s allies in the ruling Likud had already begun drafting a contentious bill aimed at granting him immunity from the various corruption charges awaiting him. He was also looking to push legislation limiting the power of Israel’s Supreme Court and paving his path to several more years in office.

But it was a separate issue that sparked the extraordinary crisis and, for the first time ever, thrust Israel into a repeat election before a new government was even formed.

Lieberman – a veteran nationalist and a secular politician – demanded that current legislation mandating that young ultra-Orthodox men be drafted into the military run its course.