The Knesset Government Collapses, Israelis to Hold Fourth Election in Two Years

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with member of the Knesset for Likud Zeev Elkin as they attend the swearing-in ceremony of the 22nd Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The Knesset dissolved automatically at midnight Tuesday night, setting a March 23 date for elections amid mutual recriminations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu and Gantz blamed each other for not finding a way to keep their government going. Likud and Blue and White had reached an agreement to extend the deadline for passing the state budget and preventing early elections. But Gantz issued new demands, and then rebels in both parties prevented the bill from passing in dramatic fashion.

“It is no secret that the Likud and I did not want to go to elections,” Netanyahu said in a Knesset press conference. “Israel is going to elections due to internal fights in Blue and White.”

Netanyahu said he had agreed to the rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office before Blue and White reneged on their deal.

Blue and White responded by shifting the blame to Netanyahu, saying: “A man under three indictments is dragging Israel to elections for a fourth time. If there was no trial, there would be a budget and no elections.”

Polls broadcast on Tuesday night found that the election will be devastating for Blue and White. A Kantar Institute poll broadcast on KAN News predicted six mandates for the party. A Midgam poll on Channel 12 predicted five seats, and if Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai forms a party, only four.

Both polls gave the Likud a significant majority over the New Hope Party of former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, Yamina and Yesh Atid. Sa’ar has risen in polls that ask who is most fit to be prime minister. In the KAN poll, 39% said Netanyahu was most fit for the job, and 36% said Sa’ar.

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SOURCE: The Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman