Third time’s a charm — or not.
After failing to form a government for the second time in a row, the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, was dissolved on Wednesday and another round of elections, the third in less than a 12-month period, has been scheduled for March.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz failed to recruit enough Knesset members in order to form a majority of more than 60 seats.
Up until the end, Netanyahu and Gantz traded barbs and accused the other of sabotaging the chances of a unity government. Neither would comprise on their own self interests in order to reach an agreement. Netanyahu would not abandon the ultra-Orthodox and Gantz would not sit in a government with Netanyahu while he would be standing trial for corruption.
Around 40% of Israelis blame Bibi for the gridlock, 26% blame Liberman, who would not join Bibi unless it was without the ultra-religious block and only 5% blamed the Blue and White’s Gantz. Gantz, so far appears to be the winner. Early polls suggest the center-right Blue and White will extend their lead over Likud by 37 to 33 seats.
Israelis are not shocked but they are frustrated with the process. Without an official government, the current cabinet ministers hold their positions and Netanyahu remains prime minister.
The first round of elections this year was April 9. Netanyahu was tasked with forming a coalition but could not. The second round, in September resulted in almost a tie between Gantz and Netanyahu, but again, neither could cobble together enough mandates for a majority.
Meanwhile, as noted Netanyahu is facing indictment on corruption and bribery charges and his future as the head of the Likud party may be threatened. And this has emboldened Gideon Sa’ar to run against Bibi for Likud’s leadership.
Instead of holding coalition talks on the day of the government’s deadline, Gantz and Netanyahu issued campaign statements instead of engaging in negotiations.
(Netanyahu flanked by his former Military Chief, Benny Gantz, who will now challenged him for the headship of the state for the third time in less than a year. Photo credit: Haim Zach Israel GPO)