CHANGE OF GUARD IN ISRAEL : CALL ALL 5TH ELECTION IN 3 YEARS
Israel’s weakened governing coalition, the first ever backed by an Arab party, announced on Monday that it will dissolve parliament, or the Knesset, next week over the Palestinian conflict, which means that the government will disband, and the country will hold elections for the fifth time in three years, following weeks of pressure on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s fragile ruling coalition. As Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is set to step down from his premiership just a year after he set foot in the role of Tel Aviv’s leader, keeping an end to Israel's most ideologically diverse coalition government ever. His coalition ally Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, a former journalist who heads the largest party in the coalition, is prepared to replace him as the interim Prime Minister likely by next week. Bennett got agreed to table a bill to dissolve parliament, which if passed would trigger a general election later this year. Fresh elections have raised the possibility of Benjamin Netanyahu's return to power or another period of prolonged political gridlock. Political observers opine that it could be Netanyahu’s last shot.
With a razor-thin parliamentary majority & divisions on major policy issues such as Palestinian statehood, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank & issues concerning religion & the state, the fissure in alliance began to appear when a handful of members defected. The flashpoint issue that eventually ended the unlikely coalition which now also faced a revolt by left-wing and Arab lawmakers. A previously obscure law proved to be the downfall of this mishap that allows Jewish settlers in the West Bank to live under Israeli jurisdiction while many Palestinians live under the rules of military occupation. Arab coalition MPs, from the left-wing Meretz & the Islamist Raam party, declined to re-certify the law, which gives settlers equivalent legal standing to people who live inside Israel’s internationally recognised borders.
Israel doesn’t have a written constitution, & elections to Parliament are held every four years in Israel, unless the Knesset decides by an ordinary majority to dissolve & trigger early elections. Israeli voters vote for parties unlike in India, not specific candidates. All Israeli citizens aged 18 & older are eligible to vote. Palestinians living on Israeli occupied territory are barred from voting. There are 120 seats in the Knesset, & to form the government, a party needs at least 61. However, no party has ever won a majority on its own, & ruling alliances comprising 8-12 parties have been the norm. These parties represent interests of specific groups, & the constituents of a coalition may hold positions that are contradictory or competing. Israel’s President chooses the candidate after the members of the Knesset have been elected that he believes has the best chance of forming a coalition. The candidate that is often the leader of the largest party is supposed to be given 28 days, with a possible extension of a fortnight, to form the government.
Netanyahu has been a caretaker Prime Minister throughout this period, finally lost power after 12 years in June 2021, as the Knesset approved Bennett as the new PM. Some observers predict that the veteran Netanyahu will battle for a comeback in part by exploiting divisions between the right-wing Jewish & Arab Israeli groups that had managed to cooperate for 12 months. As Israel waits for elections — likely at the end of October because of legal constraints & holiday delays — the new vote could set the stage for a return to power for Netanyahu. What remains uncertain — as the recent elections have shown — is whether Netanyahu will be able to put together a ruling coalition.
Some political experts believe there is a chance of an alternative government without going to another election, as Israel’s right-wing parties on both sides of the government-opposition divide will be under pressure to join, considering the right-wing majority in parliament. Many Israelis are exhausted of elections, & the prospect of another one before the end of the year is likely to lead to more apathy. Opinion polls shows that Netanyahu’s hard-line Likud will likely once again emerge as the largest single party. But it remains unclear whether he would be able to muster the required support of most lawmakers to form a new government. The political turmoil again throws a spotlight on lawmakers from Israel’s Arab minority, who make up 21 % of the population. Ultimately eyes are on Netanyahu, who continues to face corruption charges & is an extremely divisive figure in Israeli politics, even on the right wing, will be able to convince enough politicians to back him again.