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What you need to know about Israel's new elections



Israel In lawmakers voted early on Thursday to dissolve parliament just under a month after it was sworn in, killing Israel to unprecedented political chaos and raising questions about what's coming next.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has led Israel for the past decade and had been well-qualified to be responsible after the election on April 9, failed to comply with the deadline for forming a governing coalition at midnight on Wednesday, when a dispute between potential partners left him a seat that was not a parliamentary majority.

He's in the office for now. But only seven weeks after a nationwide vote, Israel is preparing for another election. This is the first time a new parliament in the country has voted to dissolve before a government itself has formed.

So how did Israel come here and what is happening now? Here's what to know.

Mr. Netanyahu's Conservative Likud Party won 35 of the 120 parliamentary seats in the April 1944 elections, the same number as the largest centrist opposition party, Blue and White.

However, unlike the blue and white leader, Benny Gantz thought that Netanyahu had a clear route to a parliamentary majority. He was nominated to form a new government with 65 right-wing legislators.

Coalition governments are a lifestyle in Israel, where the electoral system makes it extremely difficult for a single party to win a parliamentary majority. And Mr Netanyahu is known as a coalition negotiation association.

However, at midnight, Likud said it had secured only 60 of the 61 seats needed for a governing coalition.

The main point was a military bill that split two parts of Netanyahu's right -wing alliance: the secular ultranationalist faction and the ultra-orthodox parties.

Previously, Mr. Netanyahu has reached the centrists to investigate an alternative coalition or at least to force a compromise to the right. But Blue and White have said it will not work with him while facing a corruption charge and the small center-left Labor Party averted an approach.

It left Netanyahu pushing for new elections rather than letting the initiative pass to Israel's President, Reuven Rivlin, a long-standing rival. If Parliament had not voted to dissolve itself, Mr Rivlin could have asked another legislature – perhaps Mr. Gantz, or even one of Mr. Netanyahu's rivals within Likud – to try to form a government.

Mr. Lieberman controls five seats in the new parliament and says he will not attend a Netanyahu coalition unless it supports his bill unchanged.

But the religious parties have 16 legislators, and Netanyahu will also need them. They insist that the bill be amended to create more exceptions for religious students.

The argument is basically symbolic – the bill is unlikely to change the status quo significantly – but no page supports it.

Mr. Netanyahu accused Mr. Lieberman for the death penalty and accused him of trying to "shoot down this government" for political gain.

No seated prime minister in Israel has ever been charged and charges would place Mr Netanyahu under great pressure to go down.

He claims the case is a political witch hunt and has said he would continue in the office if he was charged. It seems legally possible, at least until a final conviction, even though Israel's Supreme Court could potentially intervene.

Herr. Netanyahu's Likud party had in recent days attempted to promote legislation that would ensure him immunity from prosecution while in office and limiting the court's power to waive this immunity. Now that Parliament has dissolved, its chances of having such a law in place before a charge is made are slim.

Another election is scheduled for September 17, and Mr. Netanyahu will remain in power at least until then. In July, he will take over Israel's founder, David Ben-Gurion, as the country's longest-serving prime minister.

Following the September election, the president, according to Israeli law, is to give the legislator the best chance of gathering a majority of the coalition as the first opportunity to form a government. Whether it will be Mr. Netanyahu, it is yet to be seen.

The uncertainty may also affect The White House's peace plan for the Middle East. The United States had said it would begin to deepen its ideas after Israeli elections and planned to launch the first phase of the plan – an investment fight for Palestinian territories – at a conference in Bahrain next month.

Just hours after Parliament voted to hold new elections, President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is the plan's chief architect, met Netanyahu. Mr. Kushner has traveled the region to gather support for the initiative and it is unclear whether the political cleanup in Israel will slow down these efforts.

Isabel Kershner helped to report.


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