Knesset to vote on dispersing itself, sending Israel to third elections

Netanyahu and Gantz blame one another for failure to negotiate unity coalition.

THE KNESSET – lawmakers have different ways of expressing their frustration over the coalition crisis (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
THE KNESSET – lawmakers have different ways of expressing their frustration over the coalition crisis
Barring a last-minute miracle, Israel will embark on an unprecedented third election in under a year on Wednesday, when the Knesset will vote to disperse itself and initiate an 82-day race that will culminate when Israelis will go to the polls on Monday, March 2.
The bill formally initiating the election was submitted by five MKs from the Blue and White and Likud parties on Tuesday. It must pass three readings in the Knesset Arrangements Committee and four in the plenum by midnight to pass into law.
If the bill does not pass into law and no MK obtains the support of a majority of MKs to form a government by midnight, the Knesset will be dispersed automatically and elections will be held on March 10, despite it being the Purim holiday. The final vote is expected to be delayed until close to midnight to give an opportunity for an MK to obtain a last-minute mandate to form a government from President Reuven Rivlin, but Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein expressed skepticism about that happening.
“It is hard to believe that there is a chance to prevent a third round of elections,” Edelstein told ambassadors at the annual gathering for heads of foreign missions.
Instead of holding coalition talks, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to issue campaign statements just ahead of the nightly news. No negotiations are expected on Wednesday as well.
Gantz released a video in which he reiterated his calls for Netanyahu to not seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution following his three criminal indictments. He said coalition talks could only take place if Netanyahu made such a promise, as he did ahead of the September election.
“You have the full right to defend yourself but you cannot use the Knesset as a refuge from the law,” Gantz told Netanyahu in the video.
Netanyahu responded by calling on Gantz to “stop the political spin” and conduct serious negotiations on a wide national unity government.
“It is still not too late,” Netanyahu said.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman wrote on his Facebook page that if an election is initiated on Wednesday, it would be because of the egos of the leaders of the two largest parties. He said his party resisted enticements to join the wrong kind of government.
A Channel 13 poll taken by pollster Camille Fuchs found that 41% of respondents said they blamed Netanyahu for the third election, 26% blamed Liberman, 5% blamed Gantz, 23% blamed all of them equally and 5% blamed none of them.
The poll of 803 respondents representing a statistical sample of the Israeli adult population found that if elections were held now, Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious bloc would fall from the 60 seats it won in the April election and the 55 it won in the September race to only 52. Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz would be able to form a government, according the poll, unless they were willing to make sacrifices that they have been unwilling to make until now.