Knesset Votes to Dissolve, Go to Elections

The voting results of a vote on a bill to dissolve parliament, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 26, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The proposal to dissolve the Knesset and hold early elections passed its final reading on Wednesday evening by a vote of 102 to 2, ending four years of a government frequently tottering on the brink of collapse due to coalition crises and criminal investigations of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seen in Knesset on Wednesday. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

Netanyahu had succeeded in forestalling one crisis after another to hold the government together, even when it seemed that it was impossible to salvage. But when the vote came on Wednesday, he was as eager as the opposition to put an end to the saga. There was even a report in Israeli media that the prime minister tried to pass legislation lowering the threshold required to pass the bill for disbanding the Knesset.

While the opposition was still congratulating itself on its next electoral opportunity to rid itself of the nemesis of the right wing, the coalition was patting itself on the back for its accomplishments.

Yariv Levin, the liason between the government and the Knesset, said: “We are completing a full four-year term here, four years of great momentum, of great work, of tremendous achievements, both by the government and by the entire coalition that operated here in the Knesset.

“I want to recall the Nationality Law — one of the most important laws ever enacted by the Knesset — is a foundation for the existence of the state and its character as the national home of the Jewish people,” Levin said of the law which had been so vehemently opposed by the left.

He noted that “the past four years have been characterized by extensive activity in all areas of life, and an exceptional achievement was the historic event of the transfer of the American Embassy to Yerushalayim, which we have been wishing for many years. Along with this tremendous political achievement, very important and unprecedented achievements were achieved in promoting bilateral relations between Israel and a long list of countries in the world.”

Oposition leader MK Tzipi Livni expressed much the opposite view, illustrating once again the polarization in Israeli politics:

“This is an emergency for the state of Israel, and Israel needs a reversal. It is possible and it is critical to the future of the state of Israel in order to save the country from the government that ruled here in recent years.

“For 70 years there has never been a dispute about democracy itself. I have seen the government mocking everything that democracy represents: We need to join forces and work together and connect to the common denominator and connect those who sit on the opposition side from different parties as well as the new forces that want to come to the Knesset, and form a government with all the forces that will join us,” Livni said.

One of the first consequences will be that the Prime Minister plans to fly to Brazil on Thursday and not shorten his visit there.

Netanyahu is expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro and attend the official inauguration ceremony next week.

The parliamentary path to elections on Wednesday was not an entirely smooth one, notwithstanding the almost unanimous vote.

Earlier in the day, House Committee chairman Miki Zohar (Likud) made a last-ditch attempt to push off dissolution so that more bills could be passed, including his own for tighter regulation of Internet content and a two-year deadline for legalizing dozens of outposts in Yehudah and Shomron.

Only after nearly two hours of pleading by coalition chairman David Amsalem did Zohar relent and allow the House Committee to vote on the bill, approving its advance to to the Knesset plenum.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said he would not allow any more bills to be added to Wednesday’s agenda and insisted that dispersion would be finalized, come what may.

“Two days ago, I invited the heads of all the parties to my office. We reached a clear agreement on several issues: the elections will be held on April 9, and throughout the day on Wednesday, the law to disperse the Knesset will pass a second and third reading,” Edelstein said.

“I am announcing here and now that this session will not end so long as the law to disperse the Knesset does not pass a second and third reading,” he added. “If that’s today, then today. If it’s tomorrow, then tomorrow or next week.”

Despite the vote to disperse, the Knesset will continue working on legislation next week, but only those that the coalition and opposition agree upon.

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