Monday 21 October 2019

Israel faces new election as coalition hopes fade

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

Aron Heller

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing the possibility of having to fight a second election this year, as he struggles to form a coalition government.

With a looming deadline, Israel's newly elected parliament began drafting a bill yesterday to dissolve itself.

If the bill passes, Israel would be in uncharted waters - sending the political system into disarray with a second snap election in just a matter of months.

Mr Netanyahu appeared to have a clear path to a majority coalition, and fifth term in office overall, after the April 9 elections.

His Likud party secured 35 seats, tying it for the largest party in the highly fractured 120-seat parliament.

Counting his traditional allies, Mr Netanyahu appeared to control a solid 65-55 majority. But his prospective coalition has been thrown into crisis in recent days by former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, an ally and sometimes rival of Mr Netanyahu's.

Mr Lieberman has insisted on passing a new law mandating that young ultra-Orthodox men be drafted into the military, like most other Jewish males.

Mr Netanyahu's ultra-Orthodox allies demand that the exemptions remain in place.

Without the five seats of Mr Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, Mr Netanyahu cannot muster a majority.

Mr Netanyahu's ruling Likud has traditionally had an alliance with ultra-Orthodox and nationalist parties. But Mr Lieberman, a former Netanyahu aide, is a wild card. Though nationalist, he champions a secular agenda.

Ultra-Orthodox parties consider conscription a taboo.

Irish Independent

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