Another Election Could Give Netanyahu an Opening

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(Newser)

Israel’s weakened coalition government announced Monday that it would dissolve parliament and call new elections, setting the stage for the possible return to power of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or another period of prolonged political gridlock. The election will be Israel’s fifth in three years, and it will put the polarizing Netanyahu, who has been the opposition leader for the past year, back at the center of the political universe, the AP reports. “I think the winds have changed. I feel it,” Netanyahu declared. The previous four elections, focused on Netanyahu’s fitness to rule while facing a corruption investigation, ended in deadlock.

While opinion polls project Netanyahu, who is now on trial, as the front-runner, it is far from certain that his Likud party can secure the required parliamentary majority to form a new government. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former ally and aide of Netanyahu, formed his government a year ago with the aim of halting the never-ending cycle of elections. But the fragile coalition government, which includes parties from across the political spectrum, lost its majority earlier this year and has faced rebellions from various lawmakers in recent weeks. Announcing his plan to disband the government during a nationally televised news conference, Bennett said he had made “the right decision” in difficult circumstances.

“Together, we got Israel out of the pit,” Bennett said in listing his accomplishments. “We shifted to a culture of ‘we,’ together,'” he added. Under the coalition deal, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who heads the large centrist party Yesh Atid, becomes the interim prime minister until the election, in which he is expected to be the main rival to Netanyahu. Bennett’s coalition included a diverse array of parties, including dovish factions that support an end to Israel’s occupation of lands captured in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians as well as hard-line parties that oppose Palestinian statehood. Many of the parties had little in common beyond a shared animosity to Netanyahu.

(Read more Israeli election stories.)

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