Fri, 09 Jun 2023

Tel Aviv [Israel], June 20 (ANI): Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office on Monday said that his weakened coalition will be disbanded and the country will head to a new election, ushering in the fifth election in three years.

The move follows the defection of two coalition lawmakers, giving the opposition a majority in Parliament, reported The New York Times (NYT).

The decision throws a political lifeline to Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister who left office last June upon the formation of the current government, and whose party is currently leading in the polls.

It follows weeks of paralysis caused by the defection of two right-wing government lawmakers and frequent rebellions by three others, removing the coalition's majority in Parliament and making it hard to govern, reported NYT.

Expected to be held in the fall, the election will be Israel's fifth since April 2019. It comes at an already tense time for the country, after a rise in Palestinian attacks on Israelis put pressure on the government, and amid an escalation in a shadow war between Israel and Iran.

The terms of the current coalition agreement dictate that in the event that right-wing defections prompt early elections, Yair Lapid, the foreign minister and a centrist former broadcaster, would take over as interim prime minister while Prime Minister Naftali Bennett would step aside.

If that agreement is honoured, Lapid will lead the government for at least several months, through the election campaign and the protracted coalition negotiations likely to follow, reported NYT.

The government was fragile, to begin with because of the ideological incompatibility of its eight constituent parties -- a fractious alliance of right-wing, left-wing, secular, religious and Arab groups that joined forces only last June after four inconclusive elections in two years had left Israel without a state budget or a functional government.

The coalition was cohesive enough to pass a new budget, Israel's first in more than three years; make key administrative appointments; and deepen Israel's emerging relationships with key Arab states.

But its members clashed regularly over the rights of Israel's Arab minority, the relationship between religion and state, and settlement policy in the occupied West Bank -- clashes that ultimately led two key members to defect, and others to vote against government bills, reported NYT.

The coalition's members agreed to team up last year only because of a shared desire to oust Netanyahu, the right-wing former prime minister.

Netanyahu's refusal to resign despite standing trial for corruption had alienated many of his natural allies on the right, leading some of them to ally with their ideological opponents to remove him from office. (ANI)

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