Jerusalem: Israel's Parliament has voted to dissolve a mere month after it was sworn in, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to meet the midnight deadline to form a new government, triggering an unprecedented second national election this year.
After a raucous 12-hour debate, lawmakers voted 74 to 45 in favor of the Likud-drafted bill to dissolve the 21st Knesset and hold new elections on September 17, The Times of Israel reported.
The Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, United Torah Judaism, Shas and Union of Right-Wing Parties were joined by the two Arab-Israeli parties, Ra'am-Balad and Hadash-Ta'al in supporting the motion. Only Kulanu MK Roy Folkman was absent from the late-night votes. He is expected to quit politics.
Netanyahu had appeared to secure a fourth consecutive term after elections on April 9, thanks to a strong showing by his Likud party and his other nationalist and religious allies.
But in a shocking turn of events for the longtime leader, Netanyahu failed to muster a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset by the Wednesday midnight deadline, due to an impasse between the secular and ultra-Orthodox members of his would-be coalition over a contentious draft law.
The standoff between the ultra-Orthodox parties and Avigdor Liberman, an ally-turned-rival who leads the secular Yisrael Beytenu party, sunk Netanyahu's efforts to form a government in the allotted 42 days. Liberman insisted that the draft law pass unchanged; the ultra-Orthodox parties rejected this, and Netanyahu blamed Liberman for the unbreakable deadlock.
Hours before the midnight deadline, both the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu turned down an offer by Netanyahu that would have advanced the Defense Ministry version of a bill regulating the draft of the ultra-Orthodox into the military, but would not guarantee it would pass into law. Immediately before the vote, Shas and part of UTJ accepted the offer; Liberman again rejected it.
Liberman has repeatedly said that he backs Netanyahu for prime minister, but refused to join his government unless he was guaranteed that an unaltered version of the draft bill would be passed. The ultra-Orthodox parties wanted to soften its terms.
Netanyahu needed both Yisrael Beytenu and the two ultra-Orthodox parties to muster a parliamentary majority.(UNI)