Israel sets election date after Knesset votes to dissolve

MPs vote to hold an early national election on November 1

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Wednesday that he will not run in the coming elections. AFP
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Israel’s politicians have voted to dissolve parliament and send the country to the polls in November for the fifth time in less than four years.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s Foreign Minister and architect of the departing coalition government, will become caretaker prime minister soon after midnight on Friday. He will be the 14th person to hold the high office, taking over from Naftali Bennett, Israel’s shortest-serving prime minister.

The government collapsed a little more than a year after it was formed in a historic move in which longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted after 12 years in power by a coalition of ideologically diverse parties ― the first to include an Arab faction.

The motion to dissolve the parliament, known as the Knesset, passed with 92 members in favour and none opposing, after days of bickering by coalition and opposition politicians over the date for new elections and other last-minute legislation.

The new elections will be held on November 1.

Mr Bennett announced on Wednesday that he would not run in the coming elections.

“I strived as prime minister to care for all citizens, regardless of who they voted for,” Mr Bennett said. “We proved this year that people with all different opinions can work together.”

His office said Mr Bennett would continue to serve as alternate prime minister in a caretaker government to be led by Mr Lapid.

Mr Bennett was once the leader of the main settler council for the occupied West Bank and remained opposed to Palestinian statehood, even after becoming prime minister at the head of a coalition that included left-wing parties.

His government took steps to improve economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza but ruled out any return to the stalled peace process.

Mr Bennett sought to unite the country after a prolonged period of political gridlock that led to four elections in less than two years but in the end his own small party largely crumbled as members rebelled against his coalition.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu whipped up its right-wing base against Mr Bennett, accusing him of betraying them by forging an alliance with left-wing parties and even an Arab faction.

Mr Bennett’s speeches in the Knesset were regularly met with shouting and heckling from Mr Netanyahu's allies. His family received death threats.

Many expected Mr Bennett to step away from politics once the government fell.

In his address, he said Yamina would be led by Ayelet Shaked, a close ally who is Interior Minister in the departing government.

It is not clear whether the disarray in Yamina will help or hurt its natural allies on the right. If the party runs but fails to clear the electoral threshold, it could deprive Mr Netanyahu and his allies of a potentially crucial partner — or Ms Shaked could emerge as a kingmaker, much as Mr Bennett did.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 11:54 AM
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