Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the parties in his coalition decided Monday to disperse the Knesset this week and initiate an early general election on April 9, 2019.
Netanyahu boasted to his Likud faction that his coalition lasted four years and had key diplomatic, security and economic accomplishments. He said he could not initiate the election six weeks ago, when Avigdor Liberman resigned as Defense Minister and sparked a coalition crisis, because he wanted to first complete destroying tunnels on the Lebanese border in Operation Northern Shield.
“With God’s help, we will win,” said Netanyahu, who vowed to form the same coalition after the election.
Leaders of coalition and opposition parties met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein summoned the party heads to formalize the process of dispersing the Knesset and come to an agreed-upon election date.
Edelstein expressed pride in many of the laws the Knesset passed over its four years, specifically mentioning the Jewish Nation-State Law, but said he was disappointed in many lawmakers’ conduct and “verbal violence.” He expressed hope that the next Knesset will engage in more civil discourse.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said her ministry will begin working on the bill to dissolve the Knesset, which is set to be brought to all three plenum votes on Wednesday.
Following the announcement of an election, party leaders made statements declaring victory. Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman all predicted that they would become prime minister in the election and the Joint List’s Ayman Odeh said Israeli Arabs will come out to vote in droves.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak called it “the most important election since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.”
The early election was announced shortly after Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said he would vote against the Defense Ministry’s bill to enlist haredim into the IDF.
Netanyahu blamed Lapid’s change of heart on the bill for it not being able to pass, calling it a contortion worthy of Harry Houdini.
The Supreme Court said a haredi enlistment bill must be passed by January 15. Because the bill will not be passed by then, Netanyahu as defense minister would be breaking the law if he does not immediately enlist the haredi en masse, but he still could ignore the law.
The Likud could have still tried to pass the bill with the 61 MKs in the coalition, but the three MKs in the Agudat Yisrael party have said they would not vote for the bill if key changes are not made. Knowing that, coalition chairman David Amsalem instead tried to keep the bill in its current format and seek the support of the opposition Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu parties who voted for it in its first reading.
But Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called a press conference Monday to announce that Yesh Atid would not support the bill, even though he his prior effusive support for it. Lapid alleged that he had proof the Likud had made “dirty deals” under the table with the haredim and Finance Ministry officials were working on them.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether he heard from Finance Ministry officials who worked with him when he was their minister, Lapid said: “You don’t reveal your sources, and neither will I.”
Yisrael Beytenu said its MKs would still have voted for the bill in it current format but also wants alleged deals with the haredim investigated. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman told his faction he would not enter the next government unless the bill is passed in its current format.
GIL HOFFMAN,LAHAV HARKOV/THE JERUSALEM POST