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  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits at the plenum at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem May 30, 2019.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits at the plenum at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem May 30, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 May 2019

After a painstaking 12-hour debate, Israeli lawmakers approved the Likud-drafted bill to dissolve the 21st Knesset and hold new elections.

Time is up for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his bid to form a right-wing majority government failed. On Thursday, as the May 29 deadline was reached, Israel’s parliament voted to dissolve itself, triggering an unprecedented second national election in 2019 and first in Israel's history.

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After a painstaking 12-hour debate, Israeli lawmakers approved by a vote of 74 to 45, the Likud-drafted bill to dissolve the 21st Knesset and hold new elections on September 17. On Monday, Netanyahu’s Likud had spearheaded the preliminary motion to dissolve the government. 

This comes as the far-right leader failed to muster support from Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beiteinu in order to obtain the 61 seats needed to form a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. “All of the requests and demands of Israel Beiteinu were repeatedly rejected. I presented a proposal. He rejected it. He wanted, in the clearest way, to bring down the government,” Netanyahu said on Thursday trying to use Liberman as a scapegoat.  

On the April 9 Israeli Legislative Elections, the right-wing Likud won 35 seats, the ultra-orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism won eight seats each, while the right-wing union got five and Kulanu four. Yet Netanyahu counted on Liberman’s five seats to secure a parliamentary majority.

 

“A government of 60 is not a right-wing government, but an ultra-Orthodox government that, instead of preserving Israel as a Jewish state, will change it into a theocracy,” Liberman said during the weekend as talks stalled. 

The former Defense Minister and leader of the secularist party Israel Beiteinu refused to be part of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition over the ultra-orthodox unwillingness to allow men to serve in the military. “We are natural partners in a right-wing government; we won’t be partners in a halachic government,” Liberman said after Thursday's vote. 

The failed attempt will now trigger legislative national elections once again in less than a year. Generally, elections would take place every four years and they were supposed to be held in November 2019. However,  Netanyahu dissolved the Israeli Parliament last December and called for snap elections on April 9, mainly having to do with corruption charges against the prime minister.

This new election process will likely deny Netanyahu time needed to pass legislation shielding him from prosecution in three corruption cases. Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has announced fraud and breach of trust charges against the PM in three graft cases, pending a hearing, including bribery in one of them.

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