Israeli lawmakers voted to dissolve the Knesset last night. A new election is scheduled for 17 September. The prime minister is going for broke to remain on top, but his legal woes hang over his future. For Christian analyst, infighting in the Likud and Netanyahu’s legal problems will determine his fate.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Overnight, Israeli lawmakers voted to dissolve the Knesset (parliament) after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who won last April's elections, missed the midnight deadline to form a coalition government with at least 61 votes (out of 120). Fresh elections will take place on 17 September.
This is the first time in Israel's history that a prime minister-designate fails to form a government. In Netanyahu’s case, he was unable to put together a right-wing coalition despite his success in the April polls.
For some observers, last night’s event was “parliament committing mass [political] suicide” and might be the beginning of an institutional crisis that could end Netanyahu's power.
Last weekend, thousands of people took to the streets of Tel Aviv, to protest against a bill that would give Netanyahu immunity should his case go to trial. The pro-democracy rally brought together the main opposition groups.
Six weeks were not enough for Netanyahu to cobble together a 61-seat majority of in the Knesset, which voted itself out of business with 75 votes in favour.
For several analysts, Israel’s right-wing parties, with religious parties who usually play king-makers, could have formed a majority; however, they fell out over a military conscription bill for ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Netanyahu was unable to find common ground between his ally Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, and the religious parties.
The votes of Arab lists Ra‘am- Balad and Hadash-Ta‘al, who had abstained on the first vote on 27 May, were also decisive for the dissolution of the Knesset.
The political crisis in Israel “was unexpected”, but has "clear and deep" reasons, said Sobhy Makhoul, a Maronite Christian analyst and administrator of the Christian Media Center, who spoke to AsiaNews.
"Lieberman's party has put Netanyahu in a tight spot; then his legal problems, with a possible indictment for corruption, dealt a final blow to a legislature that was never born."
"The controversy over military service for the Orthodox tipped the balance. Netanyahu had to compromise to stay in the saddle, which his ally (and now rival) Lieberman refused to accept. Add to this the internal splits in the Likud, with Gilad Erdan challenging Netanyahu for control of the party."
Amid the in-fighting and power games, the judiciary continues to act as a guarantor, which is why people took to the streets recently to "protect its independence and prevent political interference."
As the September election looms over the horizon, Netanyahu has pledged to fight, announcing a “sharp, clear election campaign which will bring us victory."
However, the situation could change depending on Arab Israelis voting in large numbers, which they didn’t do in April, and on "the decision of the Supreme Court, expected in July, on the charges against the prime minister".
Netanyahu went for broke leading to the dissolution of Parliament but he cannot take for granted a fifth mandate as prime minister.