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The Knesset dissolved itself Wednesday after Netanyahu and Gantz both failed to form a governing coalition.
Israelis are preparing to head to the ballot box for the third time in less than a year as the Knesset dissolved itself Wednesday midnight after both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz failed to form a governing coalition since the last election held on Sept. 17.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin had the option to offer a mandate to another political figure to try to form a coalition government before midnight, giving the candidate a deadline of fifteen days to obtain a majority of 61 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset.
However, Rivlin opted to allow new elections to be held. The third election has officially been scheduled for March 2, 2020, by the Knesset.
His opponents called for his withdrawal from political life, but Israel’s general attorney said if the premier is not yet convicted with all appeals used, he hasn’t the legal obligation to quit.
According to Haaretz, Gantz said Tuesday that he was willing to negotiate with the PM if the latter does not request immunity, following what Netanyahu asked Wednesday his attorneys if it would be wise to give up his right to request immunity in order to overcome the current political chaos and set up a government.
On the other hand, secular far-right Zionist Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman, dubbed the kingmaker, precipitated last week the move towards the third election after talks with Netanyahu failed. Lieberman’s party won eight seats in September and his backing would have been key over who could become the PM.
The Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader is however strongly opposed to the participation of ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel’s politics and has also called Palestinian citizens of Israel a “fifth column” in the country.
On Wednesday, he harshly criticized his former ally, Netanyahu, saying he had been subjected to “smears, distortions and malicious versions.” Denying claims by Netanyahu, Lieberman said he had never intended to establish a narrow coalition with Blue and White, but only to support a broad unity government.
“The difference between us is that I have values and you have only interests,” Lieberman wrote in a Facebook post, addressing Netanyahu.
“Mr. Prime Minister, apparently at your age your memory is betraying you and you forgot, I supposed, the president’s proposal which gave you, not Benny Gantz, the right to serve as a prime minister first. If I had conducted myself the way you are conducting yourself, I’d have joined a minority government with Kahol Lavan [Blue and White], without hesitation.”
According to a Channel 13 News poll published on Tuesday, Blue and White party would get 37 out 120 Knesset seats in a potential election, while Likud is prognosticated 33, potentially allowing Gantz to form a narrow coalition with other center parties and Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu.