Election Looms but Netanyahu Can Still Avoid It

Until the Knesset is formally dissolved, the prime minister has the option of recreating his coalition; he may be trying to do just that.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the vote to dissolve the Knesset, December 3, 2014 in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the vote to dissolve the Knesset, December 3, 2014 in Jerusalem.Credit: AFP

The heads of the party caucuses in the Knesset decided last Wednesday that Israel will go to the polls on March 17 next year. That same day, a bill to dissolve the Knesset passed its first reading.

It appears, therefore, that the holding of elections early next year is a done deal. But in fact it's not.

The current coalition is well and truly dead, following the dismissal earlier in the week of Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister, but Benjamin Netanyahu remains prime minister and he still has the mandate to govern.

Until the dissolution bill passes its second and third readings in the plenum and the current Knesset is actually dissolved, Netanyahu can still cobble together a new coalition and continue governing the country until elections are required in three years' time.

He seems to be trying to do precisely that.

According to recent reports, Likud activists have been sounding out Yesh Atid Knesset members about defecting from the party and remaining in the coalition, while the ultra-Orthodox parties might yet join the coalition without going to elections.

All of the politicians involved strongly deny that they have any intention of reconstituting the coalition, but stranger things have happened in Israeli politics.

The dissolution bill is due to have its second and third readings on Monday. Until then, anything can happen.

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