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Israel to Hold New Election After Netanyahu Fails to Build Coalition

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before voting in the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israel to Hold New Election After Netanyahu Fails to Build Coalition
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Israel’s parliament voted Thursday to dissolve itself after long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government.

The lawmakers voted 74 to 45 to end the current session of parliament and hold new elections on September 17. This marks the first time that Israel will have two elections within the same year.

Netanyahu’s Likud Party won 35 seats in parliament in the first election on April 9. But that was far less than the number needed for a majority in the 120-seat parliament.

Netanyahu was given until Wednesday night to form a government. He was hoping to form a coalition made up of Likud, ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and another group led by former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman.

But negotiations collapsed when Netanyahu and the Jewish parties refused to agree to Lieberman's demand. The former minister wants the government to require ultra-Orthodox Jews to sign up for military service. Most Israelis over the age of 18 are required to do so.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews consider required military service a violation of their religious beliefs. Their rejection of military service angers other Israeli Jews.

After the parliamentary vote, Netanyahu said, “We will run a sharp, clear election campaign, which will bring us victory. We will win, and the public will win.”

The Blue and White alliance of Benny Gantz narrowly lost to Likud in April. He would have likely been given a chance to form a government if parliament had not been dissolved. Gantz accused Netanyahu of being more concerned about his own political future than about what is good for the country.

Netanyahu and his supporters had expected the return to power would come easily. Netanyahu allies in Likud had already begun working on a bill aimed at granting him legal protection from corruption charges he is facing.

Netanyahu also was looking to push legislation to limit the power of Israel’s Supreme Court and create a path for him to serve several more years in office.

Netanyahu first served as prime minister in the late 1990s. He returned to power in 2009, and has led the country for the past 10 years. In July, he is set to overtake Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, as the longest-serving prime minister.

The new election gives Gantz and other anti-Netanyahu forces in Israel another chance to defeat the longtime leader. The vote may make it more difficult for Netanyahu to pass bills aimed at protecting himself legally.

Even if Netanyahu wins in September, it is unlikely he would be able to form a government and win enough support for an immunity deal before a possible indictment. That would force him to stand trial and, in turn, put pressure on him to step down.

Israel’s political problems could affect United States efforts for a Mideast peace deal. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has announced plans for a conference next month in Bahrain. At that meeting, the administration was planning to release what it calls the first step of its peace plan. U.S. officials had promised to release the plan only after the Israeli election.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Ashley Thompson adapted this story from reports by VOA News, the Associated Press and the Reuters news agency. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

dissolve - v. to end or disappear or cause (something) to end or disappear

session - n. a formal meeting or series of meetings of a group of people (such as a court of law or legislature)

ultra-Orthodox - adj. accepting and following the traditional beliefs and customs of a religion extremely closely

grant - v. to agree to do, give, or allow (something asked for or hoped for)

indictment - n. an official written statement charging a person with a crime