JERUSALEM: Israeli lawmakers dissolved parliament on Thursday, forcing the country’s fifth election in less than four years, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid set to take over as caretaker prime minister at midnight.
After the unanimous 92-0 vote, the centrist Lapid embraced outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose year in charge of an unwieldy, eight-party coalition was ultimately undone by its ideological divisions.
Lapid, whose Hungarian-born father survived the Holocaust, went immediately from parliament to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre.
“There, I promised my late father that I will always keep Israel strong and capable of defending itself and protecting its children,” the 58-year-old said in a statement.
The newly-called election, set for November 1, marks another sign that Israel remains mired in an unprecedented era of political gridlock, with early opinion polls indicating the results may again be inconclusive.
The religious nationalist Bennett, who has said he was stepping back from politics, hosted Lapid for a short transition ceremony.
“I hand over to you the responsibility for the State of Israel,” Bennett said to Lapid, who called the outgoing premier “a good man and an excellent prime minister.” “This is not a farewell ceremony because (I have) no intention to take leave of you,” Lapid further said.
Hawkish former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has assured that he and his allies — extreme-right nationalists and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties — will finally rally a majority, following what he described on Thursday as a “failed (coalition) experiment”.
“We are the only alternative. A strong, nationalist, responsible government,” said Netanyahu, who is on trial over corruption charges he denies.
Regarded by both allies and critics as a tireless political brawler, Netanyahu was already campaigning on Thursday, telling shoppers at a Jerusalem mall that combatting rising living costs — which he blamed on Bennett’s “bad government” — will be his “first mission” after returning to office.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022