The country will hold its fifth election in three-and-a-half years
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and alternate PM Yair Lapid have officially concluded their doomed efforts to stabilize the troubled governing coalition.
The pair announced in a joint statement on Monday they would bring in a bill in seven days to dissolve the Knesset, having been unable to bypass or extend the West Bank emergency bill considered vital to Israeli security. It was the first time in 55 years the government had voted not to extend the measure, which allows Jewish settlers in the West Bank to receive the same benefits and be prosecuted in the same courts as legal residents of Israel.
Dissolving the Knesset automatically extends the bill's protections until three months after the next government is formed.
Rather than potentially be forced out by opposition leader and former PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Bennett and Lapid said they would prefer to "leave the public with an impression of a successful government." The decision had only been made "after the attempts to stabilize the coalition were exhausted," and while Bennett said it was "not easy," he described it as "the right decision. Believe me, we left no stone unturned."
"Last Friday, I understood that when the settlements law expires there will be chaos. We couldn't let that happen. Therefore we decided to go for election in order to prevent that," Bennett said. The coalition survived two no-confidence motions earlier on Monday.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar blamed "irresponsible behavior by Knesset members in the coalition" for the collapse of the government, arguing the next election should focus on keeping Netanyahu out of the seat of power lest he return to "mortgaging the country to his own personal interest."
Opposition parties made no secret of their decision to vote against the West Bank bill, despite supporting it ideologically, in an effort to tank the ruling coalition. "We will do everything to topple this bad government," Knesset member (MK) Keti Shitrit from Netanyahu's Likud party told World Israel News.
Even the PMs' allies grew restive under their problematic leadership, with MK Nir Orbach of Bennett's New Right party leaving the coalition last week because the "settlements law" had not been renewed.
When the Knesset is dissolved, Lapid will take on the role of interim PM of the transitional government and continue as foreign minister. The next election is expected to be held on October 25.
Opposition politicians reveled in the news. "Bennett, Lapid - you did the right thing a year late. A Likud-led government soon," MK Yoav Galant gloated. A statement released by the Likud party doubled down, telling Bennett to "Go home. It's over. It's time to return Israel to the Right."
In a video posted to Twitter, Netanyahu - who spent 12 years in office after an earlier three-year term, making him the longest-serving PM in Israeli history - dismissed the current government as one that was "dependent on supporters of terror, that neglected the personal security of citizens of Israel, and that raised the cost of living to new heights."
He gloated over the government's downfall, calling it "the worst government in the history of the State of Israel" and pledging that the next - which he presumes would be led by him - would be "nationalist and wide."