Last night, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself. A general election will take place in Israel on September 17, just over five months after the last election. Confounding all expectations, Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government within the allotted time after that election, on April 9, despite the success of his Likud party, which won 35 out of the Knesset's 120 seats, and despite a seemingly solid right-wing majority in he Knesset. The Likud was joined in the vote to dissolve the Knesset by all the right-wing parties and by the Arab parties. Blue and White, Labor, and Meretz opposed the motion. The alternative to dissolution was that the president would ask another member of Knesset, presumably Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, to form a government.
The vote came after the failure Netanyahu's attempts to forge a compromise over the army conscription bill between Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman and the United Torah Judaism party. The bill was intended to regularize conscription for haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) men, who currently are able to avoid conscription by declaring that they are in full-time Torah study, and most do so. Liberman insisted as a condition of him joining Netanyahu's coalition that the bill should be passed in the original format in which it passed first reading in the previous Knesset, which included targets for conscription of haredim , whereas United Torah Judaism insisted on changes.
Liberman accused Likud and Netanyahu of surrender to the haredim. "I was not prepared to join a government of Jewish law, but a government of the right," he said. For his part, Netanyahu accused Liberman of joining the left.
Netanyahu tried desperately to form a government before the deadline of midnight last night. By 9 pm, he had the agreement of all the right-wing and religious parties apart form Yisrael Beiteinu, giving him the backing of 60 members of Knesset. Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, however, declared that his agreement to join the coalition was not final, and that he would not serve in a government without a clear majority in the Knesset. All therefore depended on Liberman, who refused to budge.
As a consequence of last night's events, under a ruling of the High Court of Justice, the arrangement for exemption from conscription for haredim will expire at the end of July, and they will be subject to conscription like all Israeli men of draft age.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 30, 2019
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