Third Israeli Election Expected in March 2020 if Knesset Dissolves

Parties in disagreement over when exactly to send Israelis to the polls again, on a Memorial Day, Purim or anniversary of Hasidic figure's death

Jonathan Lis
Chaim Levinson
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Israeli man votes in 2019 election, April 9, 2019
Israeli man votes in 2019 election, April 9, 2019Credit: Meged Gozani
Jonathan Lis
Chaim Levinson

Israel's next election is expected to take place in March 2020 if the country's parliament dissolves this week after both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz failed to form a coalition.

In the event of a failure to obtain the 61 signatures required to back a lawmaker who would receive the mandate to form a coalition, the Knesset will dissolve by Wednesday and Israelis will head back to the polling booth, with the vote supposed to take place on March 10.

The chairman of the Knesset Arrangements Committee, MK Avi Nissenkorn (Kahol Lavan), plans to convene the committee on Monday in order to approve an amendment with the new date before the Knesset's dissolvement on Wednesday. His objective is to bring the amended version to a vote in three readings in the Knesset plenum by this Wednesday, on the assumption that the Knesset will disband.

There is a dispute between Kahol Lavan and Netanyahu's Likud over when the election is to take place. By law, elections must be held on a Tuesday.

Likud is opposed to scheduling the vote on March 3, as it falls on the Memorial Day for soldiers whose burial place is unknown. March 10 is the Purim holiday, and March 17 marks the anniversary of the death of 19th century Hasidic leader Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, and scheduling elections for that date is strongly opposed by the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party.

The date can be postponed by seven days - until March 17 - by Knesset vote; any other date would require legislation to pass in three stages to dissolve the government. The date would then be determined according to the convenience of all sides, up to five months in advance.

In light of these events, Likud would prefer to vote on March 24, but since the right-wing bloc is a minority in the Knesset, they will need other parties to agree to the date. Theoretically, if Kahol Lavan, Meretz, Labor, the Joint List and Yisrael Beiteinu all agree to a particular date, they can compel Likud to agree to it. 

Kahol Lavan and Yisrael Beiteinu asked to hold the election as early as February 25, and Likud wanted to open polls as late as possible, i.e. March 17. The two parties are expected to compromise on the March 3 date.

On Saturday, Haaretz reported that Supreme Court President Esther Hayut had offered Justice Neil Hendel to head the Central Elections Committee for the 23rd Knesset, replacing Justice Hanan Melcer. Hendler accepted the offer, although the decision is not official as yet. The committee is likely to begin its work this week, if the 22nd Knesset is dissolved.

According to a previous arrangement, Justice Uzi Vogelman was in line to head the committee, but because Hendel had already accumulated experience as Melcer’s deputy in the two previous election campaigns, Hayut decided to offer him the position. Melcer was the first justice to head the committee during two national election campaigns, in April and September, as well as for the local council elections last year.

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