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Israel set for possible fifth election in four years as PM Bennett moves to dissolve parliament

Bennett, along with the coalition’s key ally, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid – now appears to be replacing him – as early as next week – has agreed to introduce a bill that would dissolve parliament, which if passed would trigger general elections later this year.

The announcement came after weeks of political uncertainty in Israel, but it still came as a big surprise.

A brief statement from the Prime Ministry said the move came “after exhaustion of attempts to stabilize the coalition”. A bill will be submitted to parliament at some point next week, the statement said.

If accepted, Lapid will become the country’s fourteenth Prime Minister, in line with the original coalition agreement signed last year. It also means that Israelis will go to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years.

One of the first items on Lapid’s agenda, assuming he will be the leader, will be to prepare for the visit of US President Joe Biden next month. A senior administration official said that despite the political turmoil in Israel, the President’s Middle East tour is still expected to continue.

“We have a strategic relationship with Israel that goes beyond any government. The President looks forward to his visit next month,” the White House official said. said.

The Bennett-Lapid government took office in June last year, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s term as prime minister, which lasted nearly twelve and a half years.

The coalition of at least eight political parties spanned the entire political spectrum, including for the first time an Arab party led by Mansour Abbas.

Combined with a desire to prevent Netanyahu from staying in power, whose corruption trial began in May 2020, the different coalition partners agreed to put their key differences to one side.

In November, it achieved significant domestic success by passing a state budget for the first time in nearly four years.

But in recent weeks, many coalition members have either resigned or threatened to resign, depriving the government of a parliamentary majority to pass the law.

The political stalemate culminated earlier this month when the Knesset vote failed to approve the application of Israeli criminal and civil law to Israelis in the occupied West Bank.

Among other things, the arrangement, which is up for renewal every five years, gives Israeli settlers the same rights as Israeli citizens and is a clause of faith for right-wing members of the coalition, including Prime Minister Bennett.

However, two members of the coalition failed to support the bill, meaning it did not pass. If parliament is dissolved before 1 July, the arrangement will remain in effect until a new government is formed.

How does a failed vote on Jewish settlers show that the Israeli government has faltered?

Speaking with Lapid on Monday evening, Bennett said their government had swept away what he called the bitterness and paralysis of the Netanyahu era, instead emphasizing decency and trust.

“In the past weeks, we have done everything we can to save this government. In our eyes, its continued existence was in the interest of the country. Believe me, we looked under every stone. We did not do this for ourselves, but for our beautiful country, for you, citizens of Israel.”

Lapid appreciated Bennett as a courageous and innovative leader. And he issued a stern warning of the dangers of a return to Netanyahu’s leadership.

“What we need to do today is to return to the concept of Israeli unity. Not to let the dark forces separate us from within,” he said.

Netanyahu, by contrast, was optimistic, saying the country was smiling after what he called a great news evening.

After a determined struggle by the opposition in the Knesset and the great suffering of the Israeli people, it is clear to all that the most dismal government in the country’s history has come to an end.”

Netanyahu and his supporters were bolstered by the latest opinion polls, which showed that his bloc of right-wing and religious parties was performing strong, but still not enough to secure a majority in parliament.

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