Knesset Takes First Step Toward Snap Election, Netanyahu Urges Lieberman to 'Be Responsible'

If the dispute between former defense minister Lieberman and ultra-Orthodox parties isn't resolved by Wednesday, the bill may well pass its two remaining votes, leading Israel to another snap election

MKs Avigdor Lieberman and Miki Zohar, April 2019.
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on MK Avigdor Lieberman to "be responsible" and avoid another snap election in Israel, amid deadlocked negotiations to form a coalition government and a fast-approaching Wednesday deadline.

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The Israeli Knesset passed on Monday a bill to dissolve itself in a preliminary reading. It remains unclear whether the governing coalition really wants new election or whether the bill is merely an attempt to pressure its warring members into the compromises needed to form a new government.

If the dispute hasn’t been resolved by then, the bill may well pass the rest of its required votes on Wednesday, leading Israel to another snap election.

>> Lieberman just snatched away Netanyahu’s election victory | Analysis

Lieberman and Netanyahu met during the Knesset vote on Monday, but the meeting did not result in any agreements.

"Unfortunately, I haven't been able to convince Lieberman to avoid another election," said Netanyahu in a press conference. "The reality is that we must be responsible and form a government immediately." 

In his statement, Netanyahu quoted U.S. President Donald Trump's support for him, saying that the two have a lot to do. On Monday, Trump tweeted: "Hoping things will work out with Israel's coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever."

Earlier on Monday, former Defense Minister Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu said that his party will not join a "halakah [Jewish law] government."

"We will support the dissolution of the Knesset and we will not recommend any other alternative candidate [to the president for the formation of the coalition]," he said at a press conference. 

Lieberman and Netanyahu met during the vote, which reportedly did not result in any agreements.

Although rightist parties won a clear majority in April’s election, they have so far been unable to form a government because of a dispute between United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beiteinu over a law to draft the ultra-Orthodox into the Israeli army.

But before that happens, the parties would have to resolve a dispute over when the new election should be held. The ultra-Orthodox parties want them held in late August, but MK Yulia Malinovsky of Yisrael Beiteinu said her party would insist on September.

The bill, sponsored by MK Miki Zohar (Likud), was approved by a vote of 65-42, with six abstentions. The abstaining party was left-wing Hadash-Ta'al, who commented: "We will not cooperate with Netanyahu's spins to form an extremist government. We will be glad to see him deliver the news of his failure to the president on Wednesday."