Published Date: June 03, 2019
Thursday, 30 May 2019 | It’s official. On September 17, Israelis will head to the polls for the second national election this year after attempts to form a majority coalition failed and the members of the 21st Knesset [Parliament] voted to dissolve—exactly one month after being sworn in.
This is the first time in Israel’s history that a Knesset is dissolved without forming a government. Local media called it a “shocking turn of events,” made all the more shocking by the fact that hardly anybody expected this particular outcome.
Following the first national election on April 9, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed set to retain the position and stay in power for a record fifth term. His political party, Likud, had secured 36 of the 120 Knesset seats—the best they had ever done under Netanyahu. The majority of party leaders recommended him for the job. Finally, President Reuven Rivlin nominated him as prime minister.
With all the hurdles cleared, all that remained was for Netanyahu to form a coalition with a majority of 61 out of the 120 Knesset seats within 28 days—with a possible 14-day extension.
The task seemed a mere formality. In fact, Netanyahu seemed set to form a right-wing coalition totaling 65 seats, with 36 seats coming from his own party, Likud, and the rest derived from smaller parties. Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah would bring eight seats each. The Union of Right-Wing Parties would bring five, as would Yisrael Beytenu—led by former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman—and finally, centrist party Kulanu would contribute four seats. The heads of all these parties had recommended Netanyahu and had informally shown interest in joining the coalition. With everything in Netanyahu’s favor, 28 days—with a possible 14-day extension—seemed almost excessive.