GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 642, 3 July 2022

Israel: Parliament dissolves and prepares for the fifth election in four years
Lakshmi Menon

What happened?

On 30 June, Knesset, Israel's Parliament (the Knesset) voted in favor of its dissolution, a legislative step that would send the country to re-elections in November 2022. After days of bickering between the coalition and opposition, the dissolution was passed with 92 lawmakers voting in favor of the motion and none opposing. 

Naftali Bennett, the shortest-serving Israeli prime minister handed over the office to the caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid who is also the country's foreign minister and the architect of the coalition government that was headed by Bennett and Lapid. This is in accordance with the power-sharing deal that was made following last year's inconclusive elections.

The new elections will be held on 01 November.

What is the background?

First, one year of Israel's coalition government. Its formation was a historic move as it saw Israel's longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu being ousted after being in power for 12 years. The improbable and unusual coalition of the ideologically diverse parties seemed to have the common objective of keeping Netanyahu away from power. The coalition government and the opposition, headed by Netanyahu, had been sparring in the Knesset over the dissolution bill since Bennett announced the lack of tenacity of the eight-party alliance

Second, the Arab party coalition. The coalition government was the first ever Israeli government to comprise of an Arab party – the Islamist Ra'am faction. The latter's leader Mansour Abbas agreed to join the coalition in order to address the discrimination faced by Arabs and to secure greater government funding for the Arab minority of Israel (which is approximately 20 percent of Israel's population). Meanwhile, Netanyahu and his allies called the Arab faction "terrorist sympathizers"

Third, Bennett's retirement. Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party announced he would notn run in the upcoming elections. His party faced infighting and splintering after the coalition government was formed in 2021. Members of the Yamina party protested against what they called Bennett's unnecessary compromises to the liberal allies of the coalition

Fourth, renewal of the West Bank law. The last straw was the failure to renew the so-called West Bank law that would ensure that the occupied West Bank's Jewish settlers would live under Israeli law. The emergency law preserves the settlers' special status in the occupied West Bank. The outgoing Prime minister Bennett, also the former leader of a settler lobby group, expressed that if the measure were to expire on 30 June it would cause "constitutional chaos" and security risks. Dissolution of the Knesset prior to its expiration would mean that the law would be automatically renewed until the formation of a new government.

What does this mean?

First, the dissolution marks a formal end Israel's political experiment in 2021 wherein eight diverse parties from across Israel's spectrum converged to find a solution to the prolonged gridlock that Israel faced since 2018. Second, Netanyahu and his allies had been attempting to form a Netanyahu-led government within the currently dissolved Knesset. The upcoming elections and the opposition's inclination towards dissolving the Knesset signals Netanyahu's failure in forming such a government. Third, polls conducted by Israeli media project Netanyahu and allies as gaining seats. However, whether they would be able to secure the least required number of seats to form a majority in the Knesset (at least 61 seats out of Knesset's 120 seats) remains unclear. In the event of a failure by Netanyahu's faction or any other in securing a majority, Israel could once again go into elections. Last, the opposition leader Netanyahu's ongoing corruption trial plays an important role in the political crisis Israel has been facing in the last four years.