Israel's parliament to dissolve, with Foreign Minister Lapid to become prime minister

Naftali Bennett says decision 'was the right one for Israel'

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday agreed to dissolve parliament, with the latter set to take over as prime minister.

Mr Bennett said at a joint press conference on Monday night that the decision to dissolve parliament “was the right one for Israel” and that Mr Lapid would “take over as prime minister in orderly manner”.

Mr Lapid, a former journalist who now heads the largest party in the coalition, will serve as caretaker prime minister until new elections can be held.

“After exhausting all efforts to stabilise the coalition, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and … [Foreign Minister] Yair Lapid have decided to submit a bill” dissolving the Knesset, the two leading coalition partners said.

The bill will be submitted next week and, if it is approved, Mr Lapid will take over as prime minister of a caretaker government, they said.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz was the first Cabinet member to confirm the proposed bill, with Mr Lapid acting as prime minister until elections are held later this year.

“At this time, I thank Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who has made significant efforts to lead [the government], and wish success to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who will take over as Prime Minister soon. Elections and periods of instability are not a good thing — but we will be determined to put Israel and its citizens first,” Mr Gantz tweeted.

Last year, Mr Bennett formed a narrow and ideologically diverse coalition consisting of hard-right, liberal, and Arab parties. His coalition government has been fragile since then, with Mr Bennett controlling only 59 of the parliament's 120 seats.

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett in the Knesset, Israeli parliament. EPA

The coalition government is expected to submit a bill to voluntarily dissolve itself by next week, ending Israel’s 36th government and leading to new elections.

Should the bill be passed, Israel will hold its fifth election in three-and-a-half years. The election is likely to be held in October.

Mr Lapid and Mr Bennett were successful in forming their unlikely coalition in June last year after two years of political stalemate, ending the record tenure of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Mr Netanyahu-led opposition had warned it would submit its own bill to dissolve parliament on Wednesday, but Mr Bennett and Mr Lapid appear to have moved to pre-empt that.

Mr Netanyahu released a video on social media during which he hailed the coalition government’s collapse as “great news for millions of Israeli citizens”.

“After a year’s 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 Israeli history has come to an end,” Mr Netanyahu said.

Mr Netanyahu vowed to form the next government.

“My colleagues and I will form a national government led by the Likud that will take care of everyone, all citizens of Israel without any exception,” he said.

The dissolution of parliament threatens to overshadow a visit yo Israel next month by US President Joe Biden.

Updated: June 20, 2022, 7:51 PM
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