Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government with the help of other right wing parties. He has announced a reelection. He was jubilant two months ago after winning 35 seats in the hard fought election and declared it great victory as he was expected to form the government. But all efforts failed to put together a right wing coalition.
The voters seemed to have given the prime minister an unprecedented fifth term; soon he would become Israel’s longest-serving leader. His bloc of nationalist and religious parties held a 65-seat majority in the Knesset. But Netanyahu failed to meet the demands of his rival rightwing Lieberman. So the 29th May deadline to form a government passed without a positive outcome of long negotiations.
In a late-night session yesterday, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted to hold an unprecedented second election within a year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to secure the support of a former ally, ex-defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, for his right-wing coalition ahead of a constitutional deadline. By dissolving the Knesset, Netanyahu prevented President Reuven Rivlin from offering a chance to the opposition, led by the Blue and White Party, to form a government instead.
But the move also plunges Israel into chaotic, uncharted territory at a time when the U.S. is hoping to take a fresh start at a Middle East peace deal. The elections are now scheduled for September 17. It is first time that general election will take place as the result of failure to form a government. The current PM Netanyahu will hold the post until then.
The failure to stitch together a workable coalition represents a setback for Netanyahu, as his Likud Party had won 35 seats in April elections to the Knesset. The Blue and White Party, led by former military chief Benny Gantz, also secured 35 seats. But gains by other right-wing parties that have traditionally teamed up with Likud led to expectations that Netanyahu would be able to muster a coalition of 61 parliamentarians needed to form the government in a 120-member Knesset. Now, Israel’s political chaos could undercut or worse, leave stillborn a much-vaunted peace plan for the region crafted by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. The collapse of the government also exposes Netanyahu to fresh scrutiny over corruption charges.
On Sunday, the Trump administration declared that it would detail a new plan to kick-start negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority at a conference in Bahrain next month. It disclosed that the plan would include billions of dollars’ worth of economic and developmental aid to the Palestinian territories, where per capita income is less than a tenth of Israel’s $40,000. But while a Netanyahu comfortably ensconced in power could have demonstrated political flexibility for potential peace talks, a fresh election campaign is expected to push him toward more extreme positions. He threatened, for example, to annex occupied parts of the Palestinian territories while campaigning in the run-up to April’s elections. That would make any negotiation a nonstarter.
The new government in Israel is unlikely to take shape before October, when Trump would be in full-fledged campaign mode for his own reelection in 2020, with less authority to commit to a peace deal that the next U.S. administration might need to see through.
The reelection could pose serious problems to the political future of PM Netanyahu. This failure to form the government could undermine his political position. The opposition will blame him for the second general election within a year.
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