Israel to hold fresh election as Netanyahu fails to form coalition

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International desk, May 30: Israeli lawmakers have voted to dissolve parliament after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government.The vote triggered a fresh election, which will be held on 17 September.

Mr Netanyahu was unable to reach a deal for a fresh right-wing coalition following last month’s election.

At the heart of the impasse was a military conscription bill governing exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students.

It is the first time in Israel’s history that a prime minister-designate has failed to form a coalition.

Parliament voted 74-45 in favour of dissolving itself after Mr Netanyahu missed a midnight local time (21:00 GMT) deadline on Wednesday.

Mr Netanyahu entered negotiations to form a coalition government after his Likud Party won 35 of the Knesset’s 120 seats in April’s election, setting him up for a fifth term in office.

But he clashed with former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose support in the talks became vital.

Mr Lieberman, from the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, had made it a condition of allying with ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that they change their military draft exemptions.

Mr Netanyahu pushed for new elections to prevent Israeli President Reuven Rivlin selecting another member of parliament to try to form a government.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Mr Netanyahu said: “We’ll run a sharp, clear election campaign which will bring us victory. We’ll win, we’ll win and the public will win.”

Mr Netanyahu – who is on course to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister in July – will now remain in power until September’s vote.

The election is likely to be fought on similar campaign lines to April’s closely-fought vote, when Mr Netanyahu faced his toughest competitor in years – former military chief of staff Benny Gantz.

No party has ever won a majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, and the country has always had coalition governments.

That means the prime minister is not always the person whose party wins the most votes, but the person who manages to bring together enough parties to control at least 61 of the 120 seats in the Knesset.

Mr Netanyahu faces another challenge in the coming months in the form of fraud and bribery charges, and has been accused of attempting to secure for himself immunity from prosecution.

He is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favours to try to get more positive press coverage. Mr Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing.

The Supreme Court will have to determine whether he must resign.

Source: News Agencies