Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The political drama reached a peak this week after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) unveiled a plan to cancel the upcoming election.
“I found a parliamentary framework in which there is an option to cancel the most unnecessary elections in Israel’s history,” Edelstein tweeted. “It is our duty to allow the 21st Knesset to keep working.”
As Jerusalem Post political correspondent Gil Hoffman reported, Edelstein’s plan involves the Knesset presidium’s cancellation of the parliament’s summer recess, passage of a bill to revoke its dispersal with the support of 80 MKs, and the presentation of a broad coalition to President Reuven Rivlin.
Was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu behind Edelstein’s sudden and unexpected announcement? Whether he was or not, the prime minister responded that he was seriously considering Edelstein’s proposal to cancel the September 17 election and form a new government.
Because the Center-Left parties refuse to join a coalition under Netanyahu, even though a new election will cost the country hundreds of millions of shekels, it seems to be the best democratic option at this time.
We urge Netanyahu, Edelstein and their supporters to stop playing games and stop attempting to turn back the clock, and instead face the fact that new elections are now the best path forward. While they may still blame Liberman for Netanyahu’s inability to form a government with a 65-seat majority after the April 9 elections, it was the Likud that initiated the historic vote in the Knesset on the night of May 29 to dissolve parliament and call new elections, and it is the Likud that must now face the music.
What at first appeared to be an unnecessary, costly and boring election that would not get apathetic voters to the polls is suddenly becoming much more interesting.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak announced his new party together with former deputy chief of staff Yair Golan. This increases the chance of a realignment on the Left and the possibility of new alliances with the Labor Party and Meretz.
According to a Channel 13 poll, Barak’s party could win six seats and bring the Center-Left bloc to 61 seats and the pro-Netanyahu bloc to 52, not counting Yisrael Beytenu’s seven seats, which its unpredictable leader Avigdor Liberman could take either way.
Barak’s return presents a real challenge to Benny Gantz’s Blue and White opposition party, which appears to be struggling to stay together amid a public feud between at least two of its leaders – Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Lapid.
The announcement by the radical right-wing Otzma Yehudit Party on Tuesday that it was ending its partnership with Bayit Yehudi could also result in new alliances on the Right. The Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP), which includes Bayit Yehudi, could join forces with Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut – both of which did not make the threshold in the last election.
Finally, the Arab parties have announced that they will once again run on a joint ticket, giving them much more political power if they can get their voters to the polls.
With Netanyahu facing a pre-indictment hearing in three cases of alleged corruption just weeks after the election and growing calls from both outside and within the Likud for him to prime a successor, the September 17 vote could herald a new era in Israeli politics.
Despite Netanyahu’s insistence that he will stick with his traditional haredi political partners, there is also more of a chance now that a national unity coalition can be formed.
The Channel 13 poll gave both the Likud and Blue and White 32 seats, followed by the Joint Arab List with 12, Yisrael Beytenu seven, and six seats each to Shas, United Torah Judaism, Meretz and Barak’s still unnamed party, followed by Labor with five, and four each to URP and the New Right.
If the poll is even close to being accurate – and much can change before September 7 – this could be one of the closest and monumental elections in Israel’s history. Efforts to torpedo them should be put to rest.
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