Israel’s Netanyahu fails to form coalition, forcing new election


Israel’s Prime Minister has thanked President Donald Trump for recognizing Israel’s control over the Golan Heights. Benjamin Netanyahu was speaking alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem, ahead of a visit to Washington. (March 21)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a new governing coalition on Wednesday, a stunning setback that will trigger a second election just seven weeks after the Israeli leader’s Likud party appeared poised to command a majority in parliament.

Just six weeks ago, Netanyahu was headed for a record fifth term as Israel’s prime minister. But the conservative Israeli leader’s future is now in doubt after he was unable to resolve a dispute between Likud’s two potential coalition partners, despite a surprising last-minute show of support from President Donald Trump. 

“Unfortunately, it looks like we are going to elections.” Netanyahu said Wednesday, according to Israel’s Channel 12 TV News.

Israel’s national assembly, the Knesset, then voted to dissolve itself after it became clear that Netanyahu would be unable to bridge the gap between a secular ultranationalist party and ultra-Orthodox factions, according to local media reports. 

The Knesset’s move blocks Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, from giving another parliament member the opportunity to try to form a government.

The immediate cause of the standoff is a dispute with Avigdor Lieberman, an ally-turned-rival who leads the small, secular Yisrael Beitenu faction. Without Lieberman’s five parliamentary seats, Netanyahu has no parliamentary majority.

But the underlying issue is Netanyahu’s legal troubles. He faces a likely indictment on corruption charges in the coming months, and he has pressed his coalition partners to pass legislation that would grant him immunity from prosecution. 

Opposition parties strongly oppose granting Netanyahu immunity, meaning he had no alternatives to Lieberman’s party as he tried to form his coalition.

Contributing: Associated Press

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