Down to the wire: 8 things to know for May 27
Israel media review

Down to the wire: 8 things to know for May 27

As speculation of fresh elections mounts, newspapers offer varying scenarios for what will happen if Netanyahu fails to reach agreement with would-be coalition partners

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman announces his resignation from his office following the ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during a press conference in the Knesset on November 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman announces his resignation from his office following the ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during a press conference in the Knesset on November 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. With less than 72 hours before the deadline to form a deadline and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unable to clinch a deal with potential partners, speculation is mounting in Israel over the unprecedented possibility of fresh elections months after the last ones.

  • News outlets in Israel were not really sure what the procedure was, but on Monday offered varying scenarios for what could happen in the coming days.

2. The Yedioth Ahronoth daily on Monday quotes senior coalition sources as saying that “this crisis is completely out of control and right now nobody has any idea how to prevent what all of us don’t want, and that’s elections.”

  • Yedioth’s Yuval Karni says the impasse is worsening by the hour. “This isn’t just spin or empty threats, nobody really wants to have elections again, but the political establishment is taking us down that bad path.”
  • He says holding back-to-back elections would be “unprecedented in Israeli history,” and blames Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman for the most “dramatic and significant political crisis in years.”

3. Like other media outlets, Yedioth is hesitant to predict what will happen if the Wednesday deadline is missed, but in its Monday edition outlined three scenarios is says could play out in the coming days.

  • Option 1, elections: If Netanyahu fails to ink a coalition agreement, the Knesset will vote on a bill to dissolve the parliament. If the bill passes a plenum vote, elections will be called and Israelis will head to the polls for the second time in under six months. According to Yedioth, election law states that an election must be held 90 days after a bill to dissolve the Knesset is passed.
  • Option 2, clinching a deal: Netanyahu could still reach a coalition agreement and present it to President Reuven Rivlin before the Wednesday night deadline. Yedioth says that could happen by Netanyahu persuading Liberman to join his government at the last second, or by enlisting a handful of opposition lawmakers willing to defect to coalition lines.
  • Option 3, another chance: If Netanyahu fails to make the deadline, Rivlin could give the lawmakers elected in April another chance to form a government. In that case, Yedioth says that Rivlin would dissolve the current Knesset and give any lawmaker (including Netanyahu) the opportunity to form a 61-seat majority coalition.
  • Yedioth says that another election seems to be the most likely scenario, and the third option is least likely, because if the major parties are not able to reach a coalition agreement now, they wouldn’t be able to reach an agreement under different circumstances.

4. Haaretz also says that fresh elections are the most likely scenario should Netanyahu fail to make a last-minute deal. Offering a slightly different prediction than Yedioth, Haaretz says that if no government is presented to Rivlin by Wednesday, the president must task an MK of his choosing with forming a coalition.

  • Likud sources told the daily that regardless of Rivlin’s move, the party will not back any candidate for prime minister other than Netanyahu.

5. In a front page op-ed, Haaretz columnist Yossi Verter castigates Netanyahu, and says he is the only one to blame for the deadlocked talks, not “stubborn Liberman or the handful of extremist rabbis.”

  • Verter says the “inconceivable” notion of having another election this summer has revealed Netanyahu’s weakness.
  • “The combination of Netanyahu’s personality and the indictments awaiting him has turned him from the big victor of the 2019 election, only to become a trampled doormat in the subsequent coalition negotiations,” he says. Netanyahu, he writes, is learning the painful lesson of the “huge gap between his post-election intoxication and reality.”

6. Reports in several Hebrew-language newspapers said that Likud lawmakers were being summoned to the Knesset Monday afternoon to vote in favor of a dissolution bill. The move was seen by the Israeli media as a last ditch-effort to pressure Liberman to change his position and avoid fresh elections.

  • The bill to dissolve the Knesset would need to pass four Knesset readings and have the backing of at least 61 of the 120 MKs. Its not clear if the Likud-drafted measure would have enough support to pass.

7. Meanwhile, the Israel Hayom does little to hide its disdain for Liberman, accusing him of scuttling the talks.

  • In a huge, front page op-ed, columnist Mati Tuchfeld slams Liberman as a “fraud” whose only real ambition is to take down Netanyahu. He says that his Yisrael Beytenu party put forth an “unreasonable and exaggerated” list of demands from the ultra-Orthodox parties, and claimed Liberman never intended to join Netanyahu’s government at all.
  • He says that if new elections are called, it will be Liberman, not Netanyahu, who will bear the brunt of the backlash.
  • “The public will be exposed to the fact that Liberman and his party are the biggest frauds in Israeli politics after this underhanded move,” Tuchfeld says. “The entire country will be thrust into this bizarre and unprecedented election, but it doesn’t matter as long as Liberman’s lust for revenge [against Netanyahu] is satisfied.”

8. In its page 2 story on the deadlocked talks, the pro-Netanyahu daily heavily features quotes from ultra-Orthodox party members accusing Liberman of “lying” to them, and “not taking responsibility.”

  • Israel Hayom also lays out what it says is the most likely post-Wednesday scenario, which is similar to the one laid out by Haaretz. The tabloid says that if the deadline is missed, Rivlin will have to tap another MK of his choosing to form a government. If that MK is also unable to form a coalition within a 28-day period, MKs may ask Rivlin to tap another lawmaker they believe has a better chance. That MK will have then have 14 days to form a government. If the third attempt also fails, Israel Hayom says a general election will be called 90 days from then.
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