Israel’s Knesset has voted to dissolve, ending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition-forming struggles and triggering new elections.
The vote passed its second reading shortly after midnight, with 77 members of the Knesset voting in favor and 45 against. After a third and final vote, the parliament was dissolved and fresh elections called.
Before voting got underway at 11:55pm, Netanyahu had faced a midnight deadline for pulling together a government. His efforts ultimately fell flat after him and ally Avigdor Lieberman, and a collection of ultra-Orthodox parties failed to agree on a controversial military draft bill for Orthodox religious students.
Lieberman accused Netanyahu of selling out to the interests of the religious right. “We’re natural partners for a right-wing government,” he said of the Likud leader ahead of Wednesday’s vote. “We won’t be partners in a religious-law government.” Lieberman’s support had been crucial to Netanyahu’s coalition-building effort.
After the Prime Minister and his party voted to fire themselves from the jobs they got only seven weeks ago, Netanyahu can now focus on contesting new elections, slated for September. Victory would give Netanyahu another shot at forming a coalition, and see the embattled PM continue his fifth term in office.
Netanyahu’s win in last month’s general election came at a cost. After enlisting the support of a clutch of right-wing and Orthodox Jewish parties, the Israeli leader soon ran into trouble forming a coalition government.
Former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose support Netanyahu depended on to build a coalition, has clashed with the ultra-Orthodox parties over the drafting of Yeshiva students to the country’s military. The Orthodox politicians insisted that the religious students remain exempt from the draft, while Lieberman attempted to push a bill ending their exemption.