Editorial

Give Someone Else a Chance

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman arrive for a joint press conference at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on May 30, 2016.
AFP

The day before the extension that President Reuven Rivlin granted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government expires, the Knesset passed a first reading of a bill to dissolve itself, submitted by MK Miki Zohar at Netanyahu’s behest. This was apparently an attempt to pressure Yisrael Beiteinu and United Torah Judaism to compromise so that a government can be formed. Absurdly enough, the parties expected to be part of the government supported the Knesset dissolution, while most of the members of the opposition opposed it.

A special Knesset committee set September 17 as a possible date for the election and if Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman don’t succeed in bridging the gaps or, alternately, if the UTJ MKs don’t show any flexibility, the bill to dissolve the Knesset will be submitted Wednesday for its second and third readings. If it passes, Israel will be dragged into new elections without having exploited all the options for establishing a government based on the results of the April 9 balloting.

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This is a fundamentally groundless move. Netanyahu himself said Monday that “There’s no reason in the world to paralyze the country and waste billions.” A representative of the Finance Ministry’s budget division said that dissolving the Knesset and holding new elections would cost at least 475 million shekels ($131.4 million), for which there is no budget allocated. As Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon noted, “We are in the midst of an exceptional constitutional process.”

Netanyahu is prepared to do anything to preserve his regime and evade prosecution. After he dragged the country into early elections in an effort to act prior to the attorney general’s decision on whether to charge him, he made himself a hostage to his coalition partners in exchange for their support of legislation that would help him avoid trial. Now that he has failed to form a government, he is trying to block the president from giving a different MK the mandate to do so.

According to the Basic Law on the Government, clause 9A, “if the period passes and the [designated] MK doesn’t inform the president that he has formed a government, or if he informs him earlier that he won’t be able to form a government … the president will assign the job of forming a government to a different member of Knesset who informs the president that he is prepared to accept the task.”

Indeed, if Netanyahu does not succeed in forming a government, another candidate should be given a chance to do so before the Knesset is dissolved. Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz was correct when he said, “Since Netanyahu has not succeeded in forming a government, it would be appropriate to transfer the mandate to us.” But Netanyahu, as usual, uses democracy to empty it of content. After all, as far as he’s concerned, the only purpose of democracy is to preserve his rule.