Israelis will return to the ballot box for the third consecutive national election in 11 months on March 2 after its top politicians again failed to build a governing coalition, in the latest twist in a sprawling and unprecedented crisis that has left the country in political limbo for a year.
The Knesset was automatically dispersed at midnight on Wednesday, but lawmakers continued debating until early Thursday on the date of the vote.
With no Knesset member having gained the support of 61 MKs by the midnight deadline, the Knesset officially dissolved and new elections set for 90 days time, March 10.
However, having started the debate before midnight, Knesset members had until President Reuven Rivlin’s official announcement on Thursday, that no MK gained enough support to build a coalition, to pass the law setting the date for the new elections.
With March 10 falling on the Jewish festival on Purim and various other calendar considerations, MKs eventually finalized a bill setting the elections for March 2.
The second and third readings of the vote passed by 96 in favor of seven against. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was absent for earlier proceedings, showed up for the votes that were passed just before 3:30 a.m. Thursday.
That vote brought to an official close attempt by Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to assemble a coalition following the September election. Talks between Netanyahu and Gantz, leaders of the two largest parties, on a unity arrangement broke down with both sides trading blame.
Over the past 21 days, lawmakers also had the opportunity to nominate any MK for a shot at forming a government by gathering 61 signatures, but no such candidate was nominated.
The April 2019 election made history when by the end of May it became the first-ever Israeli election that failed to produce a government.
At the time, Netanyahu was short just one vote of a majority. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman had refused to join over disagreements on the ultra-Orthodox enlistment law with Netanyahu’s Haredi political allies, precipitating the repeat vote in the fall.
Following both elections, neither Gantz’s Blue and White nor Netanyahu’s Likud had enough allies to form a government without the other or the support of the Yisrael Beytenu party, but the two parties could not finalize the terms for a unity coalition.
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