Benjamin Netanyahu at Knesset disperal vote.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Campaigns for the March 17 election began in earnest late Monday night when the Knesset voted 93-0 to dissolve itself and initiate the race for the next parliament.
The outgoing Knesset lasted only 670 days, one of the shortest in the state’s history, after a coalition that made improving the ability to govern in Israel a top priority fell apart.
Before the vote, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein pleaded with the MKs to restrain themselves and refrain from negativity on the campaign trail and on social media.
“We have only one country, one Knesset and one democracy that is dear to us all,” he said. “The public is sick of mudslinging and will have a hard time accepting more negative campaigns.”
But the party heads already started attacking one another from the Knesset podium.
In his first speech as an ordinary MK, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a mistake when he initiated the election, because the public knows the race was not necessary and because the prime minister will lose.
Meretz head Zehava Gal- On eulogized the Knesset by saying “Good riddance” and expressing relief that she would not have to return to the parliament in its present composition.
Shas leader Arye Deri said that even though he did not like the outgoing government and Knesset, the parliament’s dispersal after such a short tenure made it a sad day for Israel. He said he wished he could take credit for bringing the government down but really the coalition had self-destructed.
Likud MK Yariv Levin, who chaired the coalition until its final weeks, said it came apart because at the very beginning parties disqualified other parties from joining. He urged party heads not to repeat that mistake when the next government is formed.
Current coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin expressed frustration that on the Knesset’s last day, Yesh Atid MKs who had not learned how to act as an opposition, voted against their own party head Lapid’s decisions.
In a rare step, Netanyahu ordered the firing of all the political appointees left behind in the ministries that were controlled by Yesh Atid and Hatnua before they left the coalition.
In a boost for Bayit Yehudi, the party’s Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman will serve as acting minister following the departure of Yesh Atid minister Shai Piron. Netanyahu is expected to appoint an acting finance minister and justice minister by the end of the week. Transportation Minister Israel Katz is the most likely choice to head the Treasury.
Katz will also chair the Likud’s Knesset campaign. The Likud signed a vote surplus- sharing agreement last week with Bayit Yehudi that will divide votes beyond those necessary for a mandate in the Knesset to whichever party comes closest to another seat.
After Labor signed a similar deal with Meretz, Yisrael Beytenu signed with the new party being formed by former social welfare minister Moshe Kahlon, and Shas signed one with United Torah Judaism.
Those deals left Yesh Atid as the only Zionist party expected to make the next Knesset that does not have a vote-sharing agreement in place.