The coalition led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday took the first major hurdle to ending the current government, getting the first of the four votes needed to disperse the Knesset and force snap elections. .
The opposition and the coalition could not even agree on dissolution and submitted several separate versions of the legislation: nine opposition laws and two coalition versions.
The coalition’s primary version was passed with 106 votes to one, while the opposition bills were all passed with more than 89 votes. All now go to the Knesset House committee to determine which committee will prepare them for their next vote, the first reading.
The dissolution process requires four separate votes and two committee reviews and is not expected to be completed on Wednesday. The Knesset is expected to complete the process next week, perhaps as early as Monday.
Despite a relatively mild hour-long debate on the bills, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy rejected attempts to applaud the passage of the 11 preliminary readings to dissolve the Knesset.
‘No, no, no, stop. It’s over,” Levy said.
On Monday, Bennett and Secretary of State Yair Lapid surprised the nation by: to announce their intention to voluntarily dissolve the Knesset and send Israel to its fifth election since 2019.
After months of political instability started with the loss of the majority of one seat in early April and exacerbated by security tensions, Bennett and Lapid said they came to their decision after efforts to restore order to the coalition had “exhausted”.
Following the expected dissolution, Lapid will assume the role of interim prime minister until a new government is sworn in after the election.
Speaking on behalf of the government’s proliferation law, coalition whip Boaz Toporovsky of Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction defended Bennett’s decision to pursue the proliferation, saying it was “for the good of the state.”
“This is a sad day for democracy. We do it with a heavy heart, but with all our hearts, because the advantage of the state has always been and will be before any other advantage,” Toporovosky said, adding that this was true even if it was against “the advantage of entered politics”.
Toporovsky also claimed that even in this final phase of dismantling, the opposition was reluctant to cooperate.
“The opposition is still delaying the decision to go to elections. It is an opposition that has fallen in love with disrupting the government system,” Toporovsky said.
Meretz MK Mossi Raz said the coalition was facing “unprecedented incitement” amid an uphill battle.
“From day one, this administration has faced unprecedented incitement. The opposition did not abandon its strategy of portraying the government as illegitimate… In the face of this incitement, three right-wing MPs who could not resist their power bowed out. They are the ones who overthrew the government and we will move forward,” he told the plenary.
“After the elections, we will have another government in this model, but improved; with an Arab-Jewish partnership, without succumbing to threats from the right,” Raz said.
Likud faction leader Yariv Levin, who sponsored one of the opposition’s nine proliferation bills, echoed previous claims that the Bennett-Lapid government was “weak” and “bad”.
Levin said it was “the worst government in Israel’s history” and added that the government was “established on the basis of blind hatred and an unprecedented misappropriation of voter confidence.”
His latest allegation referred to the coalition being built on a platform of campaigning against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing right-wing coalition parties of betraying voters by agreeing to align themselves with left-wing and Arab lawmakers.
“We are setting Israel on a new path today. From hate to love,” Levin said.
United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus, as well as Levin, began his remarks by reciting the shehecheyanu, a prayer that celebrates special occasions. Ultra-Orthodox leaders have rejoiced at the imminent dissolution of the Knesset and government, and many attributed its demise to divine intervention.
The government, sworn in just a year ago, had marketed itself as a ‘government of change’, but MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the opposition Joint List claimed it was bad for Arab society.
The Joint List party was previously affiliated with Ra’am, who broke from the traditional Arab political line to join the coalition.
“The only change is the name change, from Netanyahu to Bennett,” Touma-Sliman said.
“Everything else is a continuation of the policy, especially with the settlements,” she added.
While both the government and the opposition agree that the current coalition’s tenure is over, a battle has quickly erupted over how the government will fall and under what terms.
The opposition is making last-ditch efforts to outflank the government and end the coalition, not by disbanding, but by exchanging the current government for its own.
The Likud-led opposition and its leader Netanyahu have an option to shorten the election and immediately take the reins of power: If the 55-seat right-wing religious bloc can attract at least six more coalition MPs, it could immediately launch a new one. government within the current Knesset.
The opposition has been pursuing this strategy since April, when former coalition whip and legislator of Bennett’s own Yamina party, Idit Silman, resigned from the coalition and forced it to 60-60 seats with the opposition. The opposition has reportedly attempted to draw additional defecting MKs from the coalition’s right-wing and centrist flanks, although two and a half months later only one additional MK – Nir Orbach, also from Yamina – defected.
The coalition is a large tent alliance of eight cross-spectrum parties formed to prevent Netanyahu from remaining at the helm of Israel after 12 consecutive years in power.
While it tried to avoid ideological roadblocks, policy debates and security incidents — which touched the core of ideological divisions — made the political alliance increasingly unmanageable.
Netanyahu-affiliated opposition leaders have publicly expressed confidence that their parties will win a majority in elections, but behind closed doors they were more afraid of a vote, Channel 12 reported Tuesday.
At the same time, polls have shown that, if current political blocs remain stable, the post-election situation is likely to remain at an impasse. The polls have consistently shown that the parties loyal to Netanyahu do better on a vote, but without a clear path to a majority. The joint list with an Arab majority, which neither side supports, maintains the balance of power.
However, Bennett’s Yamina party did not say it would not sit next to Netanyahu. In fact, the two defectors are currently advocating an alternative government led by Likud, and Bennett’s longtime Yamina partner – Home Secretary Ayelet Shaked – is said to be actively seeking an option to ally with the largest right-wing party.
With Yamina’s seats, a right-wing religious alliance is sounding strong enough to build a narrow coalition.
Mansour Abbas, who leads the Islamist Ra’am party, has also said in the past that he would be with the Likud. Abbas, who turned the narrative of Arab politics upside down by joining a coalition, may need to join his party in the next coalition to give his political revolution another chance to show results to his grassroots.
Netanyahu, for his part, has railed against the coalition for leaning on Abbas and the opposition’s Arab Joint List majority, saying Monday he would not sit next to Abbas.
Netanyahu is credited with purging the idea of bringing Ra’am into a coalition, though he denies doing so. It has been widely reported and claimed by Abbas that Ra’am and Likud were in coalition negotiations in the spring of 2021, before breaking up over religious Zionism’s objection.
Opposition party leaders Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, Aryeh Deri of Shas and Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism all fear far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir will drive their voters away, the Channel 12 report said. Ben Gvir, a far-right con man who leads Otzma Yehudit, folded under Smotrich’s religious Zionism, has grown in popularity and may be in a strong position to make demands from Smotrich.
Elections are likely to take place in late October or early November.