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Israel’s government is struggling to hold its ruling coalition together, which means that it will hold its fifth general election in less than four years. We’ll know more for sure next week, but it looks like the government will dissolve the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, next week and prepare for a general election.
How does such instability happen? When you’re used to the orderly system of government in the U.S. (yes, I know it sounds crazy to call our system orderly these days, but track with me), a parliamentary system can seem like chaos.
As I explained in an over-over-oversimplified way a couple of weeks ago, in a parliamentary system, the government can call a general election at any time, as opposed to a regularly scheduled election like the ones we have here in the U.S.
Another feature of governments that are different from ours is that countries with more than two dominant political parties often have to rely on coalition-building to achieve a majority. These coalitions can be shaky, with parties that have different priorities struggling to hold their manufactured majority together.
Both of those political phenomena have come together to contribute to the instability in Israel, although it’s not for lack of trying on the part of the coalition in power.
“Israel is heading to its fifth election in three and a half years after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid gave up Monday on their efforts to stabilize the coalition,” reports the Jerusalem Post.
“In a joint statement, Bennett and Lapid said they would bring a bill to dissolve the Knesset to a vote next Monday,” the article continues. “There is a consensus in the coalition and opposition on an October 25 date for the election.”
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This particular coalition government is all over the map — leftists, conservatives, and centrists united with one purpose: to not allow Benjamin Netanyahu to be prime minister. Alternating prime ministers Bennett and Lapid (another crazy feature of parliamentary, coalition-based government) tried to beat Netanyahu’s coalition to the punch by calling for an election in the fall.
Remember Boris Johnson’s confidence vote in the UK earlier this month? Well, Israel’s ruling coalition fended off two confidence votes in one day, which shows how weak this coalition is.
Netanyahu stands a chance of benefiting from this coming election. Right-leaning portions of the current coalition could peel off and jump back to Netanyahu’s coalition, which, for the most part, is solidly conservative.
For his part, Netanyahu is looking for ways to benefit from the chaos. He has referred to this coalition as the “worst government in the history of the State of Israel.” He has also vowed to be the one to form the next government, boasting that his coalition will be “nationalist and wide.”
One member of the current coalition, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, laments the push for another election, saying that “the government did good work. It is too bad that the state has been dragged to elections.”
Will the coalition’s gamble pay off, or will Netanyahu emerge triumphant for another run as prime minister? Keep your eyes on this space as Israel moves closer to yet another election this fall.