«Israel» Calls for Third General Elections in a Year
By Staff, Agencies
The “Israeli” Knesset rushed through a bill Wednesday to call a third general elections in a year, prolonging a political crisis and fueling deep dissatisfaction with politicians. The move came after unity Cabinet talks between “Israeli” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival Benny Gantz broke down.
The Knesset Wednesday morning passed a preliminary reading of a bill to dissolve itself, setting a new election for March 2.
Netanyahu appeared to kick-start his election campaign Wednesday evening, even before the new polls had been confirmed. “They forced new elections upon us,” he said in a video published by his Likud party.
“In order to stop it recurring again there is only one thing to do and that is to win, and to win big time.”
A new election would be another challenge for Netanyahu, now governing in a caretaker capacity at a time when he must fend off a leadership challenge in his Likud party.
But it may also be seen as a victory for the incumbent, who faced the risk of major defections from his right wing bloc when he was indicted on corruption charges last month.
Gantz, an ex-armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, has campaigned on clean politics and called on Netanyahu to step down after the indictment.
He also encouraged defections among his allies, but they largely stood by the 70-year-old.
Gantz has demanded Netanyahu declare he would not seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution as a precondition to further talks.
“It now seems that we will be going into a third election cycle today because of Netanyahu’s attempt to obtain immunity,” Gantz told on Wednesday. “We must stand in opposition to this.”
It would be the first time Israel’s electorate has been asked to go to the polls three times within 12 months.
The three elections could cost the economy 12 billion shekels [$3.4 billion] in total, the Manufacturers Association of Israel estimated.
The parties of Netanyahu and Gantz were nearly deadlocked but each fell well short of a majority in September’s election, following a similarly inconclusive poll in April.
Both were given 28-day periods to try to forge a workable coalition but failed, forcing President Reuven Rivlin to turn to Parliament with his deadline for Wednesday.
Both parties had been trying to convince Avigdor Lieberman, a crucial kingmaker, to join their blocs.
But the secular nationalist, whose Yisrael Beitenu party holds the balance of power, refused.
Lieberman Wednesday accused both parties of putting their interests over those of the country.
“I can’t accept that the country’s agenda is dictated by one man’s personal [legal] issues,” he said of Netanyahu, before accusing Gantz’s party of “acting disgracefully and cheating their voters.”