Amid a series of coalition crises and deliberations over a possible indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu, coalition leaders announced Monday that Israel will head to the polls within four months, with a general election set for April.
“Out of national and budgetary responsibility, the leaders of the coalition parties decided, unanimously and unanimously, to dissolve the Knesset and go to new elections at the beginning of April after a four-year term,” the heads of the five coalition parties said in a joint statement.
Elections were previously slated for November 2019, and the announcement means that Knesset members will vote to dissolve parliament early. Hebrew media reports said the elections would likely be held on April 9
Despite ongoing disagreements over the ultra-Orthodox draft bill, which was the initial impetus for their meeting Monday, the coalition heads stressed that none of the parties will leave the government and that “the partnership in the Knesset and in the government will continue during the elections.”
The announcement came after MK Yair Lapid announced that his opposition Yesh Atid party will vote against the coalition’s bill on the military draft of ultra-Orthodox men, claiming that the government was preparing an “under the table” deal that would change the import of the legislation.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court granted the government a further month and a half to pass the bill, extending an early December deadline to mid-January. Without the extension, thousands of yeshiva students would have become eligible to be drafted.
Elections will likely mean a further extension will be granted.
The decision to go to the polls comes just a month after Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister and pulled his Yisrael Beytenu party out of the coalition, leaving it with a paper-thin majority of just 61 out of 120 Knesset members.
The decision also comes as Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is set to begin reviewing materials to decide on possible charges against Netanyahu this week, embarking on the most high-stakes stage yet of a several-year legal entanglement that has threatened to upend the country’s political system.
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said Wednesday he was wrapping up recommendations on three cases against Netanyahu for Mandelblit, which reportedly include recommendations that the premier be indicted on bribery charges over an affair in which he is accused of kicking back regulatory favors in exchange for positive media coverage.