Israel faces second election as Netanyahu struggles to form coalition

Hours to Deadline: Netanyahu Races to Dissolve Knesset, Send Israel to New Election

Israel is facing the possibility of its second election in less than a year as efforts to form a governing coalition look set to fail.

Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Blue and White party, led by former army general Benny Gantz, had tied with 35 seats each in the 120-seat house, the Knesset. However, the rightwing bloc that Netanyahu is part of had 65 in total, a comfortable majority.

With less than 12 hours to deadline, Israeli lawmakers have begun debating a bill to dissolve Knesset, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu races to ensure it passes, effectively sending the country to a new election one month after Israelis went to the ballot.

These are the three possible scenarios that could unfold today: Netanyahu could achieve a breakthrough in stalled negotiations before midnight and succeed in forming a governing coalition; Netanyahu could fail in talks and the Knesset could vote to dissolve itself, sending Israel to a snap election; the premier can fail to form a coalition but also fail to convince lawmakers to break up the parliament, thus returning the mandate to President Reuven Rivlin. In such a case as the latter, Rivlin would choose a different lawmaker for the task of forming the government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won 35 seats in the April election and has been trying to reach an agreement with right-wing, far-right, and ultra-Orthodox party leaders.

At the heart of the impasse is the issue of drafting ultra-Orthodoxyeshiva students: Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, without whom Netanyahu can’t form a coalition, has refused to back down on the bill’s terms, while ultra-Orthodox parties claimed they have already yielded enough ground.

These people would usually be his allies, meaning he could have expected a 65-55 majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

But they are divided on a bill that would require ultra-Orthodox men to serve in the country’s defence forces.

Avigdor Liberman, who leads the secular-right wing party Yisrael Beitenu, says ultra-Orthodox men must serve just like all other Israeli men.

Trump, in a post on Twitter Monday during his visit in Japan, said he hopes the country will be able to form a coalition and threw his support behind Netanyahu, referring to him by his nickname “Bibi.”

“Hoping things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever,” Trump wrote Monday. “A lot more to do!”

Netanyahu last month was reelected to a fifth term as prime minister but has struggled to form a government while facing potential corruption indictments, as well as disagreements among the right-wing parties his coalition would depend on.

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