Israel is heading for its fifth elections in three and a half years after the leaders of the “government of change”, Naftali Bennet and Yair Lapid, decided to dissolve Parliament and advance the elections in the face of the endemic instability and political polarization, which have caused the paralysis of the Executive.
The two main partners of the coalition government announced the news last night surprisingly in a joint appearance in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), to prevent more defections of deputies from condemning the Executive, which in recent weeks had already been unable to carry out the basic legislation.
The Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, insisted that the advance election, which will be voted on in Parliament next week, was “the toughest decision, but the most Zionist” that he has taken, “the right one for the country.”
Bennett and Lapid initially said they planned to put a bill to disperse the Knesset to a vote next week, but after the opposition’s efforts to present its own project on Wednesday, the coalition accelerated its deadlines.
Lapid, interim prime minister
The current Foreign Minister and architect of the “government of change” born a year ago, the centrist Yair Lapid, will assume, after dissolving the Knesset, as Acting Prime Minister until the formation of a new Executive to come out of the next elections. Predictably it will be the end of October for parliamentary times.
The coalition was sworn in a year ago as the most diverse executive in historyan amalgamation of eight parties from the entire ideological spectrum -from the ultra-nationalist right to the pacifist left, with the unprecedented inclusion of an Arab Islamist party- that united to overthrow Benjamin Netanyahu, after 12 consecutive years in power.
“What has happened in the last few days, or tonight, is further proof that the Israeli system needs serious changes and major repairs. A year ago we started the reconstruction process,” said Lapid.
One month ago, the opposition, led by former Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud, declared that it would systematically oppose any bill put forward by the coalitionwhich has led them not to support laws that fit their ideology and that they even promoted from the government.
The most serious case was the extension of an emergency measure, which has been renewed every five years for decades, to apply Israeli civil law to the almost 500,000 settlers living in settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The regulation would expire at the end of the month, but now it is automatically extended for several months when Parliament is dissolved. The possibility that this norm would not advance was the trigger for the electoral advance to prevent “the State of Israel from becoming paralyzed,” said Bennett.
The open war of the opposition – made up of Likud, the Religious Zionist party and the ultra-Orthodox – has not been the only challenge for the government, which in recent months has seen threatened by defections from different flanks.
“What has condemned this government has not been its diversity, in the end all the parties knew how to give in to pass laws. It has been condemned by its narrow majority, without margin of action or error”, valued political analyst Gil Hoffman, who referred “to the dirty game” of the opposition as the final blow to the coalition.
The tailspin began in April when the deputy Idit Silman of Yamina, Bennett’s far-right party, left the coalition and it lost its slim majority in the Knesset.remaining at 60-60 with the opposition, in constant risk of being outnumbered and sinking into political paralysis.
Since then: the Islamist Raam party has frozen its participation for several weeks due to the disturbances in the Esplanade of the Mosques; another deputy from the leftist Meretz withdrew her support for the government for a few days; and Yamina deputy Nir Orbach had been negotiating with Netanyahu for weeks.
The opposition was to present a law to dissolve Parliament next week and had already won the necessary backing from Orbach.
“After a year of determined struggle by the opposition in the Knesset and great suffering by the public in Israel, it is clear to everyone that the worst government in the history of Israel has come to an end”, celebrated yesterday Netanyahuconvinced that the next Executive will lead.
Hoffman felt that Netanyahu, a “tenacious populist leader”, is one of the few politicians with the ability to form a “stable right-wing government”but he is vetoed by some politicians of that tendency, either for moral reasons – he blew up democracy and is accused of corruption – or because he betrayed them in the past.
“He is probably the most hated politician in Israel, but also the most loved”points out the analyst Aviv Bushinsky, Netanyahu’s former political adviser, about the polarization that it arouses.
Both analysts agree that the next electoral battle will be fought between him and Yair Lapidwho will use his time as interim prime minister to gain legitimacy and prove to Israel that he is the moderate leader it needs.
“The electoral campaign has already started,” says Bushinsky, who believes it is very likely that Bennet abandons politics as the figure most damaged by the failure of the “government of change”.
“Although the government managed to pass a budget and other important laws, this crisis will not end until Israel’s leaders put aside their differences and enact pending electoral and constitutional reforms”, indicated Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israeli Democracy Institute, who stressed the importance of including an Arab party in decision-making.
(With information from EFE)
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