Israel’s parliament votes to disband, triggering fifth elections in four years

On Friday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will take over as interim prime minister under the terms of a coalition agreement between outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Lapid last year.

Thursday’s 92-0 vote ends Bennett’s tenure as prime minister – one of the shortest in Israeli history – and gives former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a path back to power.

New elections will be held on November 1 – the fifth ballot for Israelis in less than four years. Recent polls show that former Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party is on track to win the most seats, but the polls don’t show that his right-wing bloc will necessarily have enough seats to win a parliamentary majority and one to form the governing government.

Bennett said Wednesday that he would not be running for re-election, saying it was “time to step back a little” and “look at things from the outside.”

The coalition government had faltered for weeks. But Bennett and Lapid’s announcement last week that they wanted to dissolve their own government came as a complete surprise.

“In the last few weeks we have done everything to save this government. In our view, their continued existence was in the national interest,” Bennett said earlier this month, stood next to Lapid.

“Believe me, we’ve looked under every stone. We didn’t do this for ourselves, but for our beautiful country, for you citizens of Israel,” added Bennett.

The Bennett-Lapid government was sworn into office last June, ending Netanyahu’s premiership that had lasted more than 12 years.

The coalition of no fewer than eight political parties spanned the entire political spectrum, including for the first time an Arab party led by Mansour Abbas.

United in their desire to prevent Netanyahu – whose corruption trial had begun as early as May 2020 – from staying in power, the unequal coalition partners agreed to put their significant differences aside.

Although it achieved significant domestic and diplomatic gains, it was domestic politics that ultimately brought down the coalition.

In recent weeks, a number of coalition members have either resigned or threatened to leave the government without a majority in parliament to pass legislation.

The political impasse came to a head earlier this month when a vote in the Knesset failed to uphold the application of Israeli criminal and civil law to Israelis in the occupied West Bank.

The rule, to be renewed every five years, among other things gives Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories the same rights as within Israel’s borders and is an article of faith for right-wing coalition members, including Prime Minister Bennett.

But two members of the coalition refused to back the law, meaning it didn’t pass.

As Parliament dissolved before the law expired on July 1, the regulation will remain in force until a new government is formed, which will then be voted on again.

Andrew Carey contributed to this report.