Israel elections: What happens if the Knesset doesn't disperse? - analysis

If the Knesset doesn't disperse on Wednesday, it can't reconvene again until Monday. One scenario: The MKs plan to keep the plenum open for as long as necessary.

 MK Amichai Chikli reacts during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on January 19, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
MK Amichai Chikli reacts during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on January 19, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid announced on June 20 that Israel was heading to its fifth election in three years.

The opposition parties – Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Religious Zionist and the Joint List – had been pining for that moment since the current government formed last June.

But nine days later, the Knesset still has not fallen, and the process is dragging on and on.

The two sides agreed late on Monday that the Knesset would disperse by Wednesday at midnight. But as fresh arguments broke out on Tuesday, there is a chance that this deadline will not be met.

The bills holding the dispersal

 PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett and his government attend their inauguration ceremony at the Knesset in July 2021. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS) PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett and his government attend their inauguration ceremony at the Knesset in July 2021. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

Meanwhile, the West Bank emergency regulations, which apply Israeli law to citizens of Judea and Samaria, are set to expire on Thursday at midnight. The Knesset’s dispersal immediately extends the regulations for six months. But as it still hasn’t dispersed, the regulations currently are still set to expire, and time is running out.

Neither side wants to be blamed for endangering the more than half-million Israelis who live over the Green Line. On the other hand, neither side wants to allow the other last-minute victories that could boost their election campaigns.

The result? The two sides are engaged in an extremely high-stakes staring contest and waiting to see who blinks first.

What are the options now?

If the plenum session closes on Wednesday without the Knesset dispersing, it cannot reconvene again until Monday.

In order to avoid this scenario, the MKs plan to keep the plenum open for as long as necessary. This means that they will switch off at the podium overnight and into Thursday, for as long as it takes. Someone will have to blink a few hours before the clock strikes midnight in order to leave time for the Knesset Dispersal Bill to pass the required procedure and become law before the regulations expire.

This is the most probable scenario. But there is still a chance for last-minute drama.

A coalition source said that some Likud MKs have begun to wonder whether it would be worth extending the West Bank regulations for the usual five years in order to make sure that Israel does not enter into legal chaos.

If such an extension is passed, the Knesset would no longer need to disperse. The coalition could then, theoretically, do an about-face and call off the entire election.

The opposition would not forgive them, but then again, over the past year the opposition made the coalition’s lives miserable, and it cannot get much worse.

The chances of this happening are extremely slim. But in Israeli politics, anything can happen.