Knesset expected to dissolve this week, as April 9 confirmed as election day
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Knesset expected to dissolve this week, as April 9 confirmed as election day

Likud and Labor expected to hold primaries in February ahead of snap poll; date for Knesset to vote on dismantling itself not yet official

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a vote on the ultra-Orthodox draft bill at the assembly hall of the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 3, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a vote on the ultra-Orthodox draft bill at the assembly hall of the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 3, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The government is expected to dissolve the Knesset by a parliamentary vote in the coming days, and the two largest political parties are expected to hold internal primaries in February, after Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein confirmed Monday afternoon that national elections will be held on April 9.

Amid a series of coalition crises and deliberations over a possible indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, coalition leaders announced earlier on Monday that Israel would head to the polls within four months.

“Out of national and budgetary responsibility, the leaders of the coalition parties decided, by unanimous agreement, to dissolve the Knesset and go to new elections at the beginning of April after a four-year term,” the heads of the five coalition parties said in a joint statement.

It was not immediately clear when the Knesset vote to dissolve the parliament — which is expected to pass by a large margin — would go ahead. Some reports said the bill, which must clear three readings, would be raised on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The move would immediately freeze a number of legislative efforts and leave Israel without a permanent police commissioner, who cannot be confirmed by an transitional government.

Edelstein confirmed the election would be held on April 9.

He said a new Knesset would only convene for a swearing-in during a special April 30 gathering, due to the Passover holiday. The parliament is scheduled to break from March 31 until May 19, when the spring session begins.

Ahead of the national poll, the Likud and Labor parties are expected to hold party primaries in February to determine their respective party lists, the Hadashot television network reported.

Netanyahu was installed as Likud’s leadership candidate for the next election in 2016, and Avi Gabbay was appointed Labor leader in a vote in 2017.

Then-interior minister Gilad Erdan (right) and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz cast their vote in the Likud primary elections in Tel Aviv on December 31, 2014. (Flash90)

In a Likud faction meeting closed to the press, Netanyahu on Monday told party loyalists that “there are no guarantees, and we will have to fight mightily.”

“The real test will come in mobilizing our base — persuading our people to vote Likud, not for anyone else, and to show up and vote. If we manage to do this, we’ll win,” he said, according to a Likud statement.

Among those set to campaign for the Likud primaries is former minister Gideon Sa’ar, long seen as a challenger to Netanyahu. Sa’ar announced his political comeback in 2017 after a three-year break, saying his aim was to strengthen the Likud.

Since then, Netanyahu has accused him of attempting a “putsch” against him and attempted to advance a bill that would that would restrict the president’s powers in picking a political leader to form a coalition after national elections, in a move widely seen as an attempt to stifle a potential rebellion led by Sa’ar.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaking with then-Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar in the Knesset, October 16, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

A newcomer gunning to join the Likud party list is former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat. Yoav Gallant, a minister in the coalition’s Kulanu party, is widely believed to be planning to defect to the Likud.

Before Monday’s announcement, elections were not due until November, but there had long been speculation the coalition would not last that long, especially in recent weeks.

Netanyahu, speaking to journalists, laid out what he sees as his achievements and said he hoped for a similar coalition to the current one.

“The current coalition is, in my eyes, the core of the next coalition,” Netanyahu said. “We ask for a clear mandate from the voter to continue to lead the state of Israel in our own way.”

The decision comes with the coalition struggling to agree on a key bill related to ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the military.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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