Lieberman's Party to Support New Election as Attempts to Form New Government Hit Deadlock

Likud is weighing bringing the Knesset dissolution to a vote Monday if it does not manage to broker a deal between Yisrael Beiteinu and the ultra-Orthodox parties over the military draft bill

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Avigdor Lieberman seated behind him in the Knesset, November 19, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party members are expected to vote in favor of dissolving the Knesset on Monday if Likud brings the bill to a plenum vote, which would mean a new election would be called in Israel. 

Even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has until Wednesday to finish coalition negotiations, Likud is weighing bringing the matter of dissolving the Knesset to a vote on Monday for preliminary and first readings, if it does not manage to broker a deal between Yisrael Beiteinu and the ultra-Orthodox parties over the military draft bill that has caused a deadlock in attempts to form a government.

The idea of dissolving the Knesset is being discussed as a way to put pressure on the designated coalition parties to reach a compromise. If the Knesset is dissolved, it will eliminate the possibility of the president giving the mandate to form a government to another candidate if Netanyahu does not succeed.

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The Basic Law on the Knesset allows the Knesset to dissolve itself without the consultation talks that the president is expected to hold if Netanyahu fails to build a government.

Likud MK Miki Zohar, who formulated the bill to dissolve the Knesset, told Haaretz that "tomorrow we'll bring the law for a preliminary and first reading, and prepare it for a second and third reading on Wednesday, the deadline given to us for building a government, in the hopes that Lieberman will come back to himself." He added that "he has no intention to allow another MK to build a government except for Netanyahu."

Yisrael Beiteinu clarified yesterday that Lieberman does not intend to compromise, and will insist on passing the draft law as it is currently written. They lay the blame for this crisis on the leadership of the ultra-Orthodox Gur sect, and expressed hope that they will accept Lieberman's outline of the law and avoid going to elections again.

The opposition, meanwhile, believes that the prime minister's intentions to dissolve the Knesset if he can't form a coalition are a ploy to pressure Lieberman and the ultra-Orthodox parties to concede and come to an agreement.

Sources in Kahol Lavan, Labor, and Meretz said Sunday that if the suggestion is raised, they would prefer to establish an alternative government - where President Reuven Rivlin gives a different party leader the mandate to form a government - rather than dissolve the Knesset.

"There are enough MKs in the coalition that would be hurt by going to elections again, and in the moment of truth, will do anything to prevent this process, even if we're not hearing them now," a Kahol Lavan source said. Another source within the party said that they would not support dissolving the Knesset at this stage.

Hadash-Ta'al MK Ahmad Tibi, on the other hand, took to Twitter Sunday to support dissolving the Knesset, even if the suggestion is just a tactic. "Since the 21st Knesset elections, you [MKs] have caused and will cause extensive damage, and therefore we must dissolve today before tomorrow. I support dissolving."