Israel is likely headed for an early legislative election prompted by the failure of the current government to agree on fiscal policies and a controversial bill that would formally identify Israel as a religious Jewish nation, Elections for the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, are scheduled for late 2017, but an early election could come as soon as March, according to Israeli pundits.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded Monday that uncooperative ministers “stop their undermining,” and criticized the current government for making it “impossible to manage the country as the citizens of Israel expect that we do,” according to the Atlantic. “If the unprecedented conduct of some of the cabinet ministers persists there will be no choice but to seek the voter’s trust once again,” he continued.
A poll taken by Dialog and Haaretz last week found 52 percent of voters disapproved of Netanyahu’s performance as prime minister, but more than a third thought he was most fit for the job, which was nearly as much as the four other top candidates combined. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party holds a sixth of the seats and leads the majority coalition in the Knesset. The last elections were held in January 2013.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to take Israel to unnecessary elections last night,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid, leader of the liberal-centrist Yesh Atid party, said Tuesday following failed negotiations over housing reforms. “We had an alternative, a good alternative. Instead of wasting billions of shekels on an unnecessary election, instead of bringing the economy to a half, we could have passed a social budget.”
Lapid and his party are part of Netanyahu’s coalition, but he and Netanyahu have become fierce political competitors who rarely agree, particularly on the budget for next year.
The controversial statehood bill would put into place a basic law called “Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People.” Critics say it would marginalize non-Jewish Israelis, which make up around a quarter of the population, who are mostly ethnic Arabs.