Dissolution of the Bennet-Lapid Israeli Government
Q: Why is the Israeli parliament (Knesset) being dissolved?
A: On June 20, Prime Minister (PM) Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced that they will support the dissolution of the 24th Knesset. Two days later, the Knesset voted in an overwhelming 110-0 preliminary vote to dissolve the Knesset. The announcement came following tumultuous months for Bennett who lost his coalition majority and faced calls from the opposition to resign.
Q: Why did the dissolution of the Knesset delay following Bennett’s announcement?
A: Even though the dispersal of the Knesset quickly passed in a preliminary vote, it had to be approved three additional times to come into effect and officially initiate the transition to Lapid’s Prime Ministry. The first reading of the dissolution proposal was approved unanimously on June 27. The second and third readings were approved by midnight of June 29, officially instating the dissolution proposal.
The election date was set to November 1.
Q: What happened in the Knesset in the months leading up to the announcement?
A: The coalition suffered from significant defections that rendered it a minority government in practice. The coalition was composed of eight ideologically and ethnically diverse parties. Notably, the coalition constituted the first case in Israeli history where an Arab party participated in the coalition; simultaneously, PM Bennett is considered a right-wing hardliner, who defends Israeli claims to the occupied Palestinian territories.
In April 2022, coalition whip Idit Silman and member of Bennett’s Yemina (“Rightwards”) party said in a surprise announcement that she quit the coalition following a public dispute with coalition partner Nitzan Horowitz, concerning religious tolerance. Additional defections led the coalition to lose its thin majority, ultimately becoming reliant on cooperation from the opposition to push its agenda.
Q: What was the trigger that resulted in Bennett’s announcement?
A: It ultimately became clear that the coalition would struggle to gather enough votes to approve the extension of the emergency regulations in the West Bank. These regulations allow Israel to apply the Israeli criminal code in the West Bank, and it has to be approved for extension by the Knesset every five years.
Among the defectors were Arab lawmakers, who together with right-wing opposition Knesset members (MKs) keen on weakening the current government, refused to support the extension. PM Bennett agreed to dissolve the Knesset to prevent a legal crisis caused by the government’s failure to ensure its ability to apply Israeli law in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Q: Why does Israel keep going back to the polls?
A: The upcoming elections will be Israel's fifth elections in the past three years. Following the elections in 2015, the police began investigating long-time serving PM Netanyahu on numerous corruption scandals, notably among them dealings with Bezeq, an Israeli communications firm. In 2019, the Israeli attorney general officially submitted charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against Netanyahu.
The April 2019 elections were largely viewed as a referendum on Netanyahu’s rule. In the first two elections Netanyahu was unable to amass a coalition, forcing another round of elections. Israel’s unprecedented political limbo was momentarily solved following the third elections in March 2020, when opposition party Blue and White agreed to form a fragile coalition with Netanyahu. However, in December 2020, the government failed to pass the 2021 budget, and the Knesset dissolved as a result. It was only following the fourth round of elections, in March 2021, that Netanyahu was ousted from the Prime Ministry and Bennett began his tenure.
Q: What results is another round of elections expected to yield?
A: Recent polls indicate that although Netanyahu’s Likud party is expected to win the most seats in the Knesset, no political bloc has a clear majority.
Most of the significant political players, such as Netanyahu and Lapid, will remain in the political map. Meanwhile, PM Bennett, who is not performing well in the polls, decided to quit political life in a June 29 announcement.
Q: What does the dissolution of the Knesset mean for Biden’s anticipated first visit to Israel?
A: President Biden is scheduled to visit Israel and Palestine on July 13. Although quelling speculation arose regarding a potential visit cancellation in light of the Knesset’s dissolution, the US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, reassured that the trip will go forward as announced. Yair Lapid will host the U.S. President as Prime Minister.
Q: What does the dissolution of the Knesset mean for the prospects of Arab participation in the next coalition?
A: The Bennett-Lapid coalition was the first coalition in Israeli history to include an Arab political party. Netanyahu has recurrently lambasted the coalition for ruling with what he recently called “supporters of terrors,” despite reports that his party, Likud, approached the United Arab List in previous elections in an attempt to establish a stable coalition. Soon after Bennett’s announcement, Netanyahu promised that he will pursue a broad national coalition that will not include the United Arab List.