In a shocking turn of events, Netanyahu unable to secure a majority coalition in parliament; Likud-drafted motion to dissolve Knesset passes 74-45 in late-night vote
The Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, United Torah Judaism, Shas and Union of Right-Wing Parties were joined by the two Arab-Israeli parties, Ra’am-Balad and Hadash-Ta’al in supporting the motion. Only Kulanu MK Roy Folkman was absent from the late-night votes. He is expected to quit politics.
Netanyahu had appeared to secure a fourth consecutive term after elections on April 9, thanks to a strong showing by his Likud party and his other nationalist and religious allies.
But in a shocking turn of events for the longtime leader, Netanyahu failed to muster a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset by the Wednesday midnight deadline, due to an impasse between the secular and ultra-Orthodox members of his would-be coalition over a contentious draft law.
The standoff between the ultra-Orthodox parties and Avigdor Liberman, an ally-turned-rival who leads the secular Yisrael Beytenu party, sunk Netanyahu’s efforts to form a government in the allotted 42 days. Liberman insisted that the draft law pass unchanged; the ultra-Orthodox parties rejected this, and Netanyahu blamed Liberman for the unbreakable deadlock.
Furious as he spoke to reporters immediately after the Knesset had voted to disperse and call new elections on September 17, Netanyahu blamed “the personal ambition of one man” for dragging Israel back to the polls.
Liberman, his former PMO chief, foreign minister and defense minister, never truly wanted to sign a coalition deal and deliberately rejected every compromise, Netanyahu stormed. Liberman, he declared, reaching for the most hideous insult he could find, “is now part of the left.”
Over recent years, he has leveled most every printable insult under the sun at Netanyahu, including but not limited to liar, crook and cheat. It was his resignation as defense minister last November, when he accused the government of capitulating to Hamas terrorism, that led to April’s elections. In retrospect, it is a wonder that Netanyahu didn’t prioritize locking Liberman into his coalition as the first goal of these failed negotiations, given the Yisrael Beytenu chief’s animus and proven potential for wreaking political havoc.
Pursuing his vendetta against Netanyahu to this bitter dead end, Liberman may turn out to have fatally damaged his own political career. Not only will the formidable Netanyahu be singularly focused on eviscerating him at the polls, but so too will the ultra-Orthodox parties he so publicly humiliated. And while many Israelis may not bother to schlep to the polling stations again, especially if September 17 turns out sunny, the ultra-Orthodox community always votes in high numbers, and its representation in the next Knesset is likely to grow. Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu didn’t fare all that well on April 9, winning just those five seats — a far cry from its high of fifteen in 2009. It might have trouble making it back into the Knesset at all next time.
But Liberman will be hoping, nonetheless, that his fatal preemptive strike on this Netanyahu coalition will immensely complicate the prime minister’s legal situation from here on. He will be anticipating that with Netanyahu’s pre-trial hearing set for early October, just two weeks after what are now to be our next elections, the prime minister — provided, of course, that Netanyahu is more victorious in the next election than he turned out to be in the last one — simply won’t have time to legislate himself a Get Out of Jail card. If that proves to be the case, Liberman might truly turn out to have been Netanyahu’s most effective adversary.