Knesset votes to disperse, go to elections on Jan. 22

Bill passes 100-0 on second and third readings in late-night vote

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The Knesset voted to disperse late Monday night and head to early elections. One hundred MKs voted in favor, with no opposing votes and zero abstentions, of the motion that will lead to early elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week called for elections “as soon as possible,” blaming minor parties for staking out what he called “irresponsible positions” in recent discussions over the state budget. With all sides agreed in principle to disperse the Knesset, a new election date was agreed upon over the next few days.

Elections were to have been held in October. Monday night’s voting brings them forward to January 22.

Polls show Netanyahu heading for a smooth victory, with several likely options for building a new center-right coalition.

On Monday night, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, officially opened the 18th Knesset’s winter session after nearly three months of summer recess, speaking ironically of the Knesset’s longevity while MKs prepared to vote to go to national elections 10 months early.

“For a Knesset to begin its fifth year is no small feat,” Rivlin said, noting that only three others in Israeli history had done it — and noting, as well, that only one of those managed to complete its fifth year.

President Shimon Peres, speaking after Rivlin, talked nostalgically of the early days of the state, when diverse political parties agreed to compromise for the common good, and when a spirit of volunteerism helped build the state. Peres also spoke with reverence of the military support that the United States had provided to Israel over many years — and then talked at length about the danger posed by what the president referred to as a radical regime of ayatollahs in Tehran, and their disturbing pursuit of nuclear power.

Next at the podium, Netanyahu listed his government’s achievements while members of the opposition called out arguments and insults. “In less than 100 days,” he said, “the people of Israel will determine who will lead them.”

Monday was the second time this year that a bill calling for the Knesset’s dispersal had been put forward. In May, the Knesset passed the first and second readings of a bill for the Knesset’s dissolution, but the measure was scuttled by a late-night, last-minute formation of a Kadima-Likud unity government. The brief coalition broke apart in July after Likud refused to accept Kadima’s proposals for drafting ultra-Orthodox Israelis into the military.

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