Country Risk

Initial passage of Knesset dissolution bill increases likelihood of new Israeli election, elevating potential for policy deadlock

30 May 2019

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stands in front of Avigdor Lieberman in the Knesset after calling early elections on 26 December 2018. Source: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

On 28 May, the Israeli Knesset passed the first of a potential three readings of a bill to dissolve the Knesset, with 65 votes to 43. If the bill passes a further two readings before midnight on 29 May, Israel will hold a new general election, with a provisional date set by a Knesset special committee for 17 September 2019. The bill was submitted by Likud after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (also of the Likud party) failed to secure the coalition support of the secular-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party and its five Knesset seats.

  • Netanyahu is unlikely to be able to form a majority coalition before the deadline of end-of-day 29 May . Coalition negotiations have been ongoing since Netanyahu was charged by President Reuven Rivlin to form a government after the 9 April election. Likud secured 35 seats (making it joint-largest with the opposition centrist-left party Kahol Lavan). Yisrael Beiteinu leader, Avigdor Lieberman, is unlikely to be willing to join Netanyahu's coalition, and give him the final five seats he needs for an absolute majority with its five seats. Instead, Lieberman will probably seek to facilitate elections to improve his party's influence in any subsequent coalition, likely with veto power. A key issue for Lieberman has been Netanyahu's refusal to advance a military draft law that would require ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to serve in the military or face financial punishment.
  • Netanyahu will probably prioritise the prospect of a new election to prevent opposition parties attempting to form a government . Netanyahu has in principle secured the support of the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) each with eight seats, centre-right Kulanu party (4 seats), and the Union of Right Wing Parties (5 seats). Should these parties commit to form a 60-seat minority government, he would have a further six days from its swearing in to attempt to renegotiate with Lieberman to try and secure the necessary 65-seat coalition agreement.

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