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Coalition looking to dissolve Knesset as soon as Wednesday in bid to foil opposition

Bringing forward vote from next week is intended to stymie any effort by Netanyahu-led Likud to form an alternative government without going to elections

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, announces the collapse of his coalition government during a joint statement with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, at the Knesset, June 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, announces the collapse of his coalition government during a joint statement with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, at the Knesset, June 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

The coalition is likely to bring forward a vote to dissolve the Knesset to Wednesday in a bid to foil plans by the opposition to form an alternative government, sources close to the issue told The Times of Israel late Monday.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced earlier in the day that they could no longer maintain their coalition government and would submit a bill next week to voluntarily dissolve the Knesset.

However, they apparently decided late Monday to bring the vote forward.

Hebrew-language media reported that they were concerned that opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu would try and use the time until next week to draw support from discontented coalition members to form an alternative government without going to new elections.

While some constituent parties in the coalition may worry about clearing the electoral threshold to get into Knesset in a new round of elections to be held soon, the government still prefers not to be replaced within the current Knesset. Yair Lapid will be serving as prime minister in the interim, and would continue to do so until the next government is formed after elections — a process that could take many months, or even years, as it did when Netanyahu was caretaker prime minister before the current government was formed in June 2021.

But the opposition could try to forge its own government now as an alternate via a complicated legislative procedure known as a constructive no-confidence motion.

Netanyahu’s Likud has seemingly been attempting to line up enough support for the move, which would obviate the need for elections while returning it to power.

Currently, the opposition holds 55 seats in Likud’s right-religious bloc and another six belonging to the majority Arab Joint List party, which will not support a Netanyahu-led government.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hails the collapse of the Bennett-Lapid coalition, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

However, the Likud-led bloc could appeal to right-wing members of the current coalition for support. The government lost its majority due to several renegade coalition lawmakers and they, and others, could be tempted by the opportunity to remain MKs.

MKs within Bennett’s Yamina party, including Abir Kara, have recently expressed support for forming a right-wing government from within the existing Knesset. Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party was reportedly in talks with the Likud earlier this month, though the opposition’s refusal to support the settler bill that Sa’ar championed soured those contacts.

Members of both Yamina and New Hope are wary of another election cycle, during which right-wing opponents can hammer them for their associations with Arabs and leftists in the current government, and which could see them fail to garner enough support to re-enter the Knesset.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a joint press conference at the Knesset, announcing the collapse of their coalition, on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Following the Knesset’s dissolution, Lapid is slated to become caretaker prime minister until a new government is sworn in, as per the original coalition agreement. Bennett is expected to become alternate prime minister, a post that Lapid currently holds, and will also be responsible for the “Iran portfolio,” Hebrew media reports said.

Given legal and holiday constraints, new elections are expected at the end of October, possibly the 25th.

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