Naftali Bennett wants to dissolve the Israeli government and hold new elections

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TEL AVIV – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced Monday that they plan to dissolve the Knesset next week, setting the stage for a fifth round of general elections in less than four years.

If the vote to dissolve parliament goes through, Lapid will become interim prime minister, although Bennett will remain in charge of the Iran portfolio as stipulated in their power-sharing agreement. According to Israeli media, elections are expected to take place on October 25.

“We have a country that needs to be governed,” Bennett said in a televised joint statement with Lapid, just as the press room lights went out for a moment. “How symbolic,” said Lapid.

Bennett and Lapid had previously said they did “Exhausted options for stabilizing” her coalition, which consists of an ideological kaleidoscope of parties including left-wing Peaceniks, right-wing supporters of Jewish settlers and, for the first time in Israeli history, an Arab Islamist party. A year ago, the coalition agreed on the desire to overthrow former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bennett listed the administration’s achievements, including its success in “preventing the signing” of a new nuclear deal between Iran and world powers “without ruining relations with the United States.”

Since nuclear talks were frozen in March, Iran has been running toward securing a “significant amount of enriched uranium,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said earlier this month. Under the original deal, Iran agreed to severe limitations on the quantity and quality of enriched uranium it held.

For weeks, Israel’s ruling coalition has teetered on the brink of collapse as three members, including two from Bennett’s own right-wing Yamina party, defected, stripping the government of its majority and its ability to pass laws.

To hasten the coalition’s demise earlier this month, Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, brought his party and other normally pro-settler opposition lawmakers together to oppose a normally uncontroversial measure allowing civil law to be applied to Israelis Settlers in the occupied West Bank.

Bennett said in the televised statement that the expiration of the West Bank law would have caused “damage to the security of Israel and a consequent chaos that I cannot allow.” The expected dissolution of the Knesset next week means an automatic renewal of the law.

“This is good news for millions of Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said in a video post on Twitter. “A government that will restore national pride to the citizens of Israel so they can walk the streets with their heads held high.”

“What we need to do today is return to the concept of Israeli unity. Not allowing dark forces to tear us apart from within,” Lapid said in the televised statement, referring to the division that has deepened over Netanyahu’s 12 years as prime minister.

The development comes a week after President Biden announced plans to visit Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia on July 14. According to Israeli media, which said he will meet with Lapid, his visit will go ahead as planned.