A bill to dissolve the Knesset has been submitted by representatives of Likud and the Blue and White party, making an unprecedented third election in 12 months almost inevitable.
The Bill proposes that fresh elections take place on 2 March 2020 and is expected to pass before the midnight deadline.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said last night that he was ‘making every effort to find a way to form a government’ but would not ‘compromise our fundamental values upon which we first entered politics.’ In response, Netanyahu said he wanted to ‘discuss seriously the establishment of a broad unity government.’
Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Blue and White leader Benny Gantz were able to form a new government after the 17 September election. For the last 21 days the mandate to form government passed to the Knesset to recommend (with the support of 61 of the 120 MKs) a candidate for Prime Minister.
After the September election it seemed the only viable coalition was a national unity government, but the gaps between Likud and Blue and White were too wide. Netanyahu insisted that he serve first in any premiership rotation agreement and Likud demanded that its right-wing and ultra-Orthodox allies also join the unity government. Blue and White rejected both demands, largely because Netanyahu was recently indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases.
Netanyahu said he should remain Prime Minister in order to take advantage of “historic opportunities,” thought to allude to US support to Israel to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank and sign a mutual defence deal.
According to the latest polls on Channel 13 News last night, the Blue and White party is predicted to win 37 seats and the Likud 33, with the centre-left bloc in total winning 60 seats and the right wing religious bloc 52, Yisrael Beteinu remains in between the two camps with 8 seats.
A last minute political deal to form a Government is still possible but very unlikely. With no breakthrough before midnight, the Knesset will disband and Israel will be plunged into its third election campaign in less than 12 months.
It is expected that most parties will keep the same candidates and lists from the 17 September election but there is also the option of mergers and new parties. Before the September election the number of overall parties decreased with Kulanu joining the Likud, New Right joining a United Right and Meretz merging with Ehud Barak’s new party. There is also the possibility of new leaders entering or returning to politics including former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and former head of Shin Bet Yuval Diskin.
The Likud has agreed to hold a leadership contest with Prime Minister Netanyahu competing against former minister Gidon Saar. However the party has not yet decided when it will be held. Netanyahu is still the favourite to win any contest with Saar, but a longer campaign before the primary could benefit the challenger especially if polls continue to predict Likud emerging as only the second largest party after a March election.