The Knesset approves the initial vote to disperse, putting Israel on the road to elections

The coalition led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett overcame the first major hurdle on its way to ending the current government on Wednesday, by passing the first of four votes needed to disperse the Knesset and force early elections.

Unable to agree even on the dissolution, the opposition and the coalition presented several separate versions of the legislation: nine opposition bills and two coalition versions.

The coalition’s primary version was passed with 106 votes in favor and one against, while the opposition bills all passed with over 89 votes. Everyone will now move to the Knesset 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, possibly as early as Monday.

Despite a relatively mild one-hour debate on the bills, Knesset President 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.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with fellow parliamentarians in the coalition ahead of a preliminary vote to dissolve the Knesset for new elections on June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

On Monday, Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid surprised the nation by announcing their intention to voluntarily dissolve the Knesset and send Israel to its fifth election since 2019.

After months of political instability that began with the loss of a one-seat majority in early April and exacerbated by security tensions, Bennett and Lapid said they came to their decision after attempts to restore order in the coalition were ” out of stock “.

After the planned dissolution, Lapid will assume the role of interim prime minister until a new government is sworn in after the elections.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 22, 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

Speaking on behalf of the government dispersion bill, the whip of the Boaz Toporovsky coalition of Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction defended Bennett’s decision to pursue the dispersion, saying it was for the “good of the state.”

“This is a sad day for democracy. We are doing it with a heavy heart but with all our heart, because the benefit of the state has always been and will be before any other benefit, “Toporovosky said, adding that this was true even when faced with the” benefit of politics. “.

Toporovsky also accused that even in this latest phase of dismantling, the opposition was reluctant to cooperate.

“The opposition is still delaying the decision to go to the elections. It is an opposition that has fallen in love with obstructing the government system, “Toporovsky said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with MK Boaz Toporovsky (R) during a discussion in the Knesset, June 8, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

Meretz MK Mossi Raz said the coalition faced “unprecedented incitement” in the midst of an uphill struggle.

“From day one, this government has faced unprecedented incitement. The opposition has not given up on its strategy of portraying the government as illegitimate … Faced with this incitement, three right-wing MPs who could not bear their power, folded. They are the ones who overthrew the government and we will move forward, ”she said at the plenum.

“After the elections, we will have another government with this model, but improved; with an Arab-Jewish partnership, without succumbing to threats from the right, ”Raz said.

Likud faction chairman Yariv Levin, who sponsored one of the opposition’s nine dispersal bills, repeated earlier claims that the Bennett-Lapid government was “weak” and “evil”.

Saying it was “the worst government in Israel’s history”, Levin added that the government “was established on the basis of blind hatred and unprecedented misappropriation of voter confidence.”

His latest statement referred to the coalition being built on a campaign platform against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and he accuses right-wing coalition parties having betrayed voters by agreeing to join left-wing and Arab lawmakers.

“We are starting Israel today on a new path. From hate to love, “Levin said.

Likud MK Yariv Levin speaks during a debate and a vote on a bill for the dissolution of the Knesset, June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus, as well as Levin, opened his remarks by reciting the shehecheyanu, a prayer that celebrates special occasions. Ultra-Orthodox leaders rejoiced at the imminent dissolution of the Knesset and the government, and many attributed its downfall to divine intervention.

Granted just a year ago, the government presented itself as a “government of change”, but the opposition Joint List MP Aida Touma-Sliman accused it of being bad for Arab society.

The Joint List party had previously been an ally of Ra’am, who broke with the traditional Arab political line to sit with the coalition.

“The only change is the name change, from Netanyahu to Bennett,” Touma-Sliman said.

“Everything else is a continuation of politics, especially with the settlements,” he added.

Although both the government and the opposition agree that the current coalition’s mandate is over, a dispute has quickly emerged over how the government will fall and on what terms.

The opposition is making desperate attempts to bypass the government and end the coalition not by dissolving, but rather by swapping the current government for one of its own.

The Likud-led opposition and its leader Netanyahu have an option to shorten the elections and immediately take over the reins: if the 55-seat right-wing religious bloc manages to attract at least six more coalition MPs, it can immediately form a new government within the current Knesset.

Idit Silman of MK, the former Yamina coalition whip who left the coalition in May, and Simcha Rotman of Religious Sionism, speak ahead of a preliminary vote to dissolve the Knesset for new elections on June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

The opposition has pursued this strategy since April, when Idit Silman, a former whip and lawmaker in Bennett’s Yamina party coalition, resigned from the coalition and forced her into a 60-60 seat parity with the opposition. The opposition reportedly sought to withdraw other defecting MPs from the coalition’s right-wing and centrist sides, although two and a half months later, only one additional MP – Nir Orbach, also from Yamina – defected.

The coalition is a large tent alliance of eight cross-spectrum parties formed to prevent Netanyahu from continuing at the helm of Israel after 12 consecutive years in power.

Although it has tried to avoid ideological blockades, political debates and security incidents – touching the core of ideological divisions – have made the political alliance increasingly cumbersome.

Debate and vote on a bill for the dissolution of the Knesset in Jerusalem on 22 June 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

Opposition leaders allied with Netanyahu have publicly expressed confidence that their parties will win a majority in the elections, but behind closed doors they were more afraid of a vote, Channel 12 reported on Tuesday.

At the same time, polls have shown that if the current political blocs remain static, the situation is likely to remain stalled after the elections. Polls have consistently shown that parties loyal to Netanyahu fare better in a vote, but without a clear path to the majority. The joint Arab-majority list, which supports neither side, maintains the balance of power.

However, Bennett’s Yamina party did not say they would not sit down with Netanyahu. Indeed, his two defectors are currently backing a Likud-led alternative government, and Bennett’s longtime Yamina partner, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, is said to be actively feeling an option to ally with the larger. party of the right.

With Yamina seats, a right-wing religious alliance has a strong enough vote to build a narrow coalition.

Mansour Abbas, who leads the Islamist Ra’am party, has also said in the past that he would sit down with Likud. Abbas, who has turned the narrative of Arab politics upside down by joining a coalition, may need to link his party to the next coalition to give his political revolution another chance to show underlying results.

Netanyahu, for his part, lashed out at the coalition for leaning on Abbas and the Arab majority party of the opposition, the joint list, and on Monday said he would not sit with Abbas.

Netanyahu is credited with sanitizing the idea of ​​bringing Ra’am into a coalition, although he denies doing so. It was widely reported and claimed by Abbas that Ra’am and Likud were in coalition talks in the spring of 2021, before they fell apart at the objection of religious Zionism.

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 may alienate their constituents, the Channel 12 report also says. Gvir, a far-right fan who leads Otzma Yehudit, bent under Smotrich’s religious Zionism, Ben Gvir has grown in popularity and may be in a strong position to make demands from Smotrich.

The elections are likely to take place between the end of October or the beginning of November.