Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein meeting with the heads of the Knesset factions.
(photo credit: KNESSET SPEAKER YULI EDELSTEIN'S OFFICE)
Israel's next round of general elections will be held on March 17, 2015, it was announced Wednesday after a meeting with the heads of the Knesset factions at the office of Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Later in the day, on Wednesday afternoon, the members will vote on a preliminary reading of a bill to dissolve the current Knesset administration, which is expected to pass easily. A final reading of the bill could pass as early as next Monday.
The moves follow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision on Tuesday to fire Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni. The remaining four ministers in Yesh Atid resigned two hours later.
Elections have to take place on a Tuesday 90 to 150 days from the point when the government is dissolved. Netanyahu, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and other party leaders have indicated they want the election as soon as possible, which would be March 10.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu accused Lapid and Livni of nonstop efforts to undermine him and his government.
“[Lapid and Livni] tried to overthrow me,” Netanyahu said. “The government was under constant threats and ultimatums. The country cannot be run in the current situation. Elections are not a good thing, but a government that is attacked from inside is seven times as bad.”
Netanyahu complained that the makeup of his coalition had been forced on him, and said after the next elections, he wanted to form a government that would be wide enough that no party could topple it.
Polls broadcast on channels 2 and 10 Tuesday night found that the prime minister would easily be able to form a coalition with MKs from the Likud, Bayit Yehudi, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, United Torah Judaism, and a new party that former welfare and social services minister Moshe Kahlon is forming. The Channel 2 poll found those parties would win 76 seats if elections took place now, and the Channel 10 poll said it would be 78 seats.
Netanyahu accused Lapid of undermining him by opposing moves to boycott Iranian speeches at the United Nations, ask the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and build in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem that are over the pre-1967 border.
Citing criticism by Livni that such construction was “irresponsible,” Netanyahu said Livni was “the last person who could call me irresponsible,” because she violated a security cabinet decision by meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after he formed a unity government with Hamas.
Netanyahu met with Livni earlier Tuesday, but did not inform her that he intended to fire her. After the dismissal was announced, Livni blasted the prime minister for “not having the courage to fire me to my face.”
Livni said after the meeting that the Likud in which she had grown up had been taken over by extremists. She said she believed she better represented the values of the party’s founders.
Yesh Atid responded to Lapid’s firing by accusing Netanyahu of failing to run the country. Lapid called his dismissal “an act of cowardice and insanity.”
“It pains us that the prime minister decided to act irresponsibly and drag Israel – for petty political reasons – to unnecessary elections that will harm the economy,” Lapid said.
Lapid spoke to Herzog Tuesday night, and told him that even though Yesh Atid had more MKs than Labor, he would not try to take away the post of opposition leader.
Meretz head Zehava Gal-On, meanwhile, summed up Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday night as: “I failed, elect me again.”