June 27, 2022
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.
ISRAELIS FACE NEW ELECTIONS
Politics in Israel are always complicated and surprising. Because the government is built out of a coalition of differing parties, change can come like a bullet when one or two parties no longer agree to the conditions of their union. Unexpectedly, this has just happened.
On Monday evening, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Yaair Lapid surprised the nation, and many of their own coalition members, by announcing their intention to voluntarily disband their own government and send the country back to its fifth election since 2019, likely in late October or early November. They said they did so after coming to a conclusion that there was no way to maintain the current government.
Once the Knesset’s disbandment is finalized, Lapid will assume the premiership and Bennett will rotate to alternate prime minister, a title that Lapid currently holds. Although the Knesset will largely cease to legislate, the government will remain in place until a new one is sworn in, post elections.
The coalition on Tuesday pushed up its timeline for the Knesset’s disbandment and new elections, adding its dispersal bill to Wednesday’s legislative agenda. The Knesset Presidium approved the addition, and the Knesset House Committee granted the bill an exemption from the traditional 45-day waiting period between submission and an initial vote. The earliest the Knesset can disband is Wednesday, although a more likely scenario would be Monday of next week, as the legislation must pass four plenum votes and two committee reviews.
The opposition may try to outflank the coalition by creating a new right-wing coalition from within the existing Knesset, obviating the need for elections. This could be done by submitting a constructive no-confidence motion to swap the current government with an alternative proposed slate. If approved by 61 MKs, the alternate government automatically takes over. Such a motion can be attached to a private bill on Wednesday, or be presented as a standalone agenda item on Monday.
This would block Lapid from assuming the role of interim premier, a role that could conceivably last for many months until a new government is formed after elections, or even longer if the elections prove inconclusive and a government can’t be formed. Such a scenario saw Benjamin Netanyahu remain premier for a lengthy period after his government fell. While certain elements of the opposition and part of the coalition’s right-wing members prefer the option of reshuffling the current Knesset, the Likud-led opposition has had trouble assembling a minimum of 61 MKs agreeing to sit under its leader, former prime minister Netanyahu.
A coalition attempt to attach a separate bill to the dissolution bill barring indicted politicians from forming a government (widely viewed as a personal bill against Netanyahu) was denied by the Knesset Presidium.
My, my, who should be standing in the shadows but old former Prime Minister Netanyahu. I told you Israeli politics was fascinating!
Readers of my Wise on the Middle East blog will be fascinated by my latest book
MIRACLES NEVER CEASE!