Members of Israel’s 19th Knesset voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill to dissolve the parliament, officially putting an end to the current government and paving the way for new elections in March.
With 93 for and none against, Israeli lawmakers pushed through second and third readings of the bill to close the chapter on Israel’s 33rd government.
The Knesset passed a preliminary reading of the bill last Wednesday, two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked his coalition partners ministers Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid, and Tzipi Livni, leader of the Hatnua party, in the opening shot of the run-up to the March 17 vote.
Ahead of the vote Monday, Lapid warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would not win a new term.
“His first mistake was that his call for elections does not serve the Knesset or the Israeli people, and his second mistake is that he will lose,” Lapid said from the Knesset podium.
Other politicians also took to the plenum to bid the 19th Knesset goodbye, and “good riddance,” in the words of Meretz MK Zehava Gal-on.
Meretz MK Issawi Freij vowed March 17 would see a “revolution.”
Likud MK Yariv Levin, who drafted the bill to dissolve the Knesset, said the coalition and opposition were both problematic over the term.
“This was a coalition that was very, very difficult to manage, very complicated,” he said, though he also noted that the opposition did not manage to torpedo a single bill put forward by the ruling government.
Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein said calling new elections was unfortunate, but given current political circumstances the government had turned into a useless “empty vessel.”
The government, made up of Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, Hatnua, Yesh Atid and Jewish Home, was formed in March 2013 but eventually collapsed amid heated squabbling over legislation and swiftly denied accusations by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that ministers Lapid and Livni had tried to oust him in a “putsch.”
With political maneuvering in full swing, reports of alliances, mergers, unions and unofficial agreements between Israel’s many political parties abound.
Over the weekend, a left-center bloc aiming to overthrow Netanyahu gained traction, with Lapid and the Labor Party’s Isaac Herzog butting heads over who would lead the said bloc. Herzog asserted on Friday that he would be Israel’s next prime minister.
“It’s time to put egos away, and work together as a big bloc… with a big Labor Party,” Herzog said in the Knesset Monday. He predicted that Labor would emerge on top after the March 17 elections, and “we’ll lead the country to a better future.”
Hours earlier, Lapid declared, “Yesh Atid will lead the center bloc. We will connect with other parties to replace the current leadership and continue with full force, exactly from the place where we stopped. Everything is ready. Everything is already on the table. Everything can be restarted.”
Both Lapid and Herzog were courting Livni, with reports indicating that the former justice minister was more inclined to merge with Labor.
According to a poll aired on the Knesset channel Monday, a Herzog-Livni list would receive 23 seats, compared with Likud’s 21. If the two ran separately, Hatnua would not pass the electoral threshold and Labor would only receive 17 seats, the survey found.
Lapid is said to have proposed giving Livni and her colleagues in Hatnua four spots on his party’s list. Livni and Lapid were set to meet later Monday to discuss a possible alliance between their two parties.
On Saturday, however, Livni confirmed that her party was on the brink of sealing a deal to merge with Herzog’s Labor, asserting that such an alliance would offer Israeli voters a viable alternative to Netanyahu’s Likud.
Meanwhile, Jewish Home and the Likud signed a “surplus votes” agreement — to ensure that no votes cast for the two parties would be lost when the Knesset seats are allocated after elections under Israel’s system of pure proportional representation.
A similar deal was agreed to Monday between Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and former Likud MK Moshe Kahlon’s as-yet-unnamed party.