JERUSALEM (AP) — After just 12 months in power, the leaders of Israel’s broad-based but severely weakened coalition government threw in the towel this week, saying they would dissolve parliament and hold new elections — a 3 1/ Fifth time in 2 years.
Why does this keep happening?
The simplest answer is that Israel is deeply divided and nearly evenly divided over whether Benjamin Netanyahu should be prime minister. But it’s also because Israel’s political system is made up of ideologically distinct parties that have to form alliances — and sometimes even break them — to get what they want.
Here’s how Israel got there and what comes next.
Israelis vote by party, and in the country’s 74-year history, no faction has won a majority in the 120-member parliament known as the Knesset. So after each election, anyone wanting to become prime minister must form a coalition to piece together a majority of at least 61 seats.
This gives the small party enormous power.After almost every election, attention is focused on one or more potential king maker and their special requirementsThirteen parties were elected to parliament, for instance, in last year’s election. This could lead to weeks of negotiations and haggling between party leaders.
If no one can secure a majority, as happened after the April and September 2019 elections, the country will go back to the polls and the government will remain as caretaker.
It shouldn’t be this hard, though. Nationalist and religious parties have won parliamentary majorities in each of the past four elections, provided they can agree with each other.
This is where Netanyahu comes in.
love him or hate him
To his right-wing and religious supporters, Netanyahu is the “King of Israel” – an unapologetic nationalist and veteran politician who can be compared with everything from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to U.S. President Joe Biden’s world leaders go head-to-head to lead Israel through its myriad security challenges.
For his opponents – including the outgoing coalition leader – he is a liar at best and a threat to democracy at worst.they pointed to his Ongoing Corruption Trialshis Domineering style and his habits foment internal divisions for political gain.
Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, and his Likud group has finished first or narrowly second in all four elections. But he was never able to form a right-wing majority because some of his ideological allies – including former aides – refused to cooperate with him.
Take Avigdor Lieberman, for example. The West Bank settler, who leads a right-wing party long known for its fiery anti-Arab rhetoric, appears to be an obvious ally.but He broke with Netanyahu in 2019 And refused to sit in government with him or his ultra-Orthodox allies.
Lieberman even backed a bill that would bar anyone indicted on criminal charges from serving as prime minister – an attempt to end Netanyahu’s political career.
a clumsy alliance
Last year, after the fourth election, Netanyahu’s opponents successfully ousted him.
Naftali Bennett – another right-wing former Netanyahu ally – and centrist Yair Lapid have cobbled together an eight ideological sphere. A coalition of political parties – from right-wing nationalists to advocates of Palestinian statehood, including a small Arab Islamic party.
The factions put aside their ideological differences and worked together for a while. The government passed a budget that weathered two waves of coronavirus without imposing a lockdown, improved diplomatic relations with Arab and Muslim countries and avoided war.Bennett as Prime Minister, even try to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.
But from the outset, the government was in the majority, and Netanyahu put enormous pressure on members of his right, accusing them of collaborating with terrorists and betraying their constituents. Several right-wing members of the coalition received death threats, Including Bennett.
In the end, many gave in, and Bennett’s Yamina party nearly collapsed.government Lost majority in April. This month, it failed to pass an extension Special legal status of Jewish settlers In the occupied West Bank, most Israelis consider it essential.
New elections, same divisions
Israelis are now expected to return to the polls as early as October, when they will be wearily confronted with a familiar choice.
Netanyahu is hoping for a comeback, and Likud and its allies are expected to win more votes than last time around. Some of his right-wing opponents, weakened by ties to the coalition, could lose some or all of their seats.
But it’s too early for any reliable polls, and even if Netanyahu and his allies gain more seats, they may again fail to secure a majority.
If that happens, it will be left to the many of the same parties that make up the outgoing government to piece together a new coalition that will face the same sources of pressure as the last.
What if neither side has enough support to form a government?
You guessed it: new elections.