November 1 is emerging as the most likely date for the next general election as coalition and opposition lawmakers negotiate on the date of Israel’s fifth vote in less than four years, according to several Hebrew media reports Wednesday.
There has not yet been agreement on the matter and both sides are reportedly linking talks over the election date to contested legislation barring opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a future government, which some coalition MKs are aiming to rush through the Knesset before it dissolves, likely sometime next week.
The legislation, which would ban anyone who has been charged with serious crimes from becoming prime minister, has become a key bargaining chip for the coalition. The bill is seen as targeting Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for alleged graft crimes dating back to when he was prime minister.
Opposition MKs Yariv Levin and Yoav Kisch, from Netanyahu’s Likud party, have been pushing for the election to take place in October, while coalition MK Boaz Toporovsky of Yesh Atid has been aiming for mid-November, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
As part of the negotiations, the coalition agreed not to convene the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday evening to prepare the anti-Netanyahu bill for Knesset plenum votes, according to Channel 13 news.
Coalition members have other bills they would like to see passed before the Knesset is dismissed, such as a bid to decriminalize recreational cannabis use pushed by New Hope MK Sharren Haskel.
Haskel’s party chief, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar — a former Netanyahu ally and current bitter rival — has announced that he will bring for government approval another bill that aims to limit a prime minister’s time in office to eight years. That bill was already approved earlier this year at a second Knesset reading but failed to proceed as the coalition doubted it had enough support in parliament. Though Netanyahu has already served 12 years as prime minister, the bill would not be applied retroactively.
The Knesset on Wednesday approved a preliminary bill to dissolve itself after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s surprise announcement Monday that they had “exhausted” all efforts to stabilize their minority coalition and would move to call snap elections, Israel’s fifth in three and a half years.
However, MK Nir Orbach of Bennett’s own Yamina party, the lawmaker whose rebellion tipped the balance against the government, is trying to hold up the legislative process of dispersing the Knesset. Orbach is refraining from convening the House Committee, which he chairs, delaying its preparation of the Knesset dispersal bill for further reading. The lawmaker said he is aiming to give the opposition more time to form an alternative government within the current parliament.
Although currently in a race against time, the opposition could swap the current government with a new one without resorting to elections if it manages to wrangle the support of a majority of MKs for a constructive no-confidence motion before the Knesset formally disbands.
The coalition intends to use the time to prepare the bill barring Netanyahu from becoming premier and drum up enough support to pass it in the Knesset.
Bennett’s Yamina party has allowed its members to choose how they vote on the bill, while the prime minister himself said Wednesday that he will oppose it.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, No. 2 in Yamina, said that she was open to joining a government led by opposition Netanyahu in the current Knesset.
Likud MK Miki Zohar told the Kan public broadcaster on Wednesday that “there are a few developments that we need to clarify.”
He said there are “some Yamina MKs who understand that their political lives are coming to an end” and therefore want to keep the current Knesset going by forming an alternative government.
Zohar noted that personally, he wants elections.
As Likud reportedly tries to pry lawmakers away from the coalition, coalition Blue and White MK Michael Biton told Kan on Wednesday that the Likud had pitched an offer to him too.
“They offered me to come, I am not coming,” he said and reiterated that his party will not cooperate with Likud as long as it is still led by Netanyahu.