HomeGeopoliticsIsraeli Government Collapse: Bennett steps down, Yair Lapid to be interim PM

Israeli Government Collapse: Bennett steps down, Yair Lapid to be interim PM

On Monday, the Israeli government announced its intentions to dissolve its parliament, known as Knesset, paving the way for new elections. Interestingly, it would be the 5th election held in Israel in the past 4 years.

The leaders of the ruling alliance Yamina announced that a bill for Knesset’s dissolution will be presented next week, which, after approval, would lead to new elections in September. The current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will step down, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will become the interim Prime Minister until the formation of a new government.

The current crisis arose when a lawmaker of the ruling coalition defected in April, followed by the rejection of a bill in the Knesset pertaining to the renewal of legal rights of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Yamina’s failure to get this bill passed and the defection of rebel coalition members created a lack of trust in the government.

The Knesset

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Israel doesn’t have a written constitution. Many attempts have been made to draft a formal document since 1948, but have fallen short of the mark. Instead, Israel has evolved a system of basic laws and rights, which enjoy semi-constitutional status. It is said that this provisional solution is increasingly inadequate for Israel’s needs, and the country’s long-pending desire for a codified document would still have to wait.

According to these ‘rules’, the Knesset has a tenure of 4 years, unless it decides by an ordinary majority to dissolve and arrange for new elections. In the Israeli system, elections are held in consecutive successions until a government is formed. The Knesset has 120 seats and a party/coalition needs at least 61 seats to form a government.

Instead of voting for the leader, the people vote for parties, and the Israeli President chooses the best candidate able to form a coalition government. Generally, this candidate is the leader of the largest party and is given 28 days to form a government.

Notably, no single party has ever won a majority on its own, and the Israeli government has been run with coalition alliances since its independence in 1948. 

5th Election in 4 Years

After the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister in 2015, the government remained largely stable, until it was forced to dissolve in 2019 following the resignation of Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman is the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu party, which was in coalition with Netanyahu’s Likud party in the government.

A series of elections then followed, that remained largely inconclusive. The first was in April 2019, then in September the same year, and in March 2020. Netanyahu failed to form the government but remained the interim Prime Minister until he formed an emergency coalition government in April 2020, allying with his rival Benny Gantz. This newfound government could last only 7 months, as it was unable to get the budget passed in the Knesset in December. 

Subsequently, new elections were held in March 2021, which saw the appointment of Naftali Bennett as the new Prime Minister. This new coalition, called Yamina, consisted of 8 parties with varying interests but united by the single goal of ousting Netanyahu from power. For the first time, even an Arab party (Ra’am) also came to power under Bennett’s coalition.

Will Netanyahu Return to Power?

According to recent opinion polls, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party holds maximum public support and might come out with the largest share of votes in the upcoming elections. Though, Netanyahu’s return might face challenges- reports have indicated that some parties shall only ally with Likud if he resigns as the party leader. The former PM is accused of many corruption charges, including those of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.