Israel Headed Toward Unprecedented New Elections By Phillip Howard
Six weeks ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a fifth term as his Likud Party managed to won 35 seats in the Knesset. Netanyahu failed to establish a coalition and Israel will hold another general election this September. This was the first time a new Parliament decided to dissolve itself before forming a government.
Likud received the same number of seats as the Blue and White Party, a centrist opposition party, but appeared to have a clear path to building a coalition. Likud fell one seat short, winning support from 60 of the 61 seats needed, then voted to dissolve the Knesset so rivals were unable to form a majority coalition.
Military conscription was a key sticking point. Strictly-observing Orthodox Jews have become an impactful minority, and one that is exempt from compulsory military service while undertaking religious studies. In 2017, this practice was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and the government was given a year to address policy.
Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the secular Israel Beitenu Party, who controls five seats, refused to join Netanyahu, unless he supported Lieberman’s bill gradually increasing the service quota for strictly-observing Orthodox men in its original form. Netanyahu was unable to do that and maintain the support of 16 lawmakers from religious parties, who wanted more exemptions for religious students.
Netanyahu fired cabinet ministers perceived as rivals following the dissolution. His future is now in doubt as this embarrassing setback chipped away at the perception of his political invincibility.
Phillip Howard is a graduate student at Utica College