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Is Israel heading toward snap elections?

The Israeli political system starts preparing for early elections, creating blocs and alliances on the center-left and the right.
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Some 48 hours after it ran, the introductory paragraph of my Nov. 14 article on Al-Monitor requires revision. That same alert, anonymous Hamas fighter who had his suspicions aroused by the Israeli Defense Forces team operating deep within Gaza on Nov. 11 resulting in a deadly firefight set off a chain of regional reactions. For now, the results are not only the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, but probably also the downfall of Benjamin Netanyahu’s fourth government and early elections.

The prime minister has hit a dead end. This was not supposed to happen. Against his will, Netanyahu will probably have to schedule elections for some time between March and May 2019. Unlike the luxury he enjoyed in recent years of calling the shots in right-wing politics, he has no control over this ongoing event. It caught him unprepared, even as he concluded that there was no reason to move up the elections scheduled for November 2019 and he would do better to stick with his current government. However, Liberman’s departure set off a minefield. Liberman appears to have coordinated his move with two of Netanyahu’s key coalition partners: Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, founder of the center-right Kulanu Party, and his old friend Aryeh Deri, minister of the interior and head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. The fact that both of them immediately called for elections to be held as soon as possible indicated as much. Kahlon even vetoed a proposal to appoint Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the rightist HaBayit HaYehudi, as Liberman’s successor. Netanyahu realized he had been ambushed. If he is unable to appoint Bennett, HaBayit HaYehudi will join his other coalition partners in demanding elections. Even now, Liberman’s departure along with his party’s lawmakers leaves Netanyahu with 61 Knesset seats, a one-seat, fragile majority at the mercy of any single disaffected legislator, such as Likud’s Oren Hazan. This could spell the end of a term or of an era. We will know for sure within a few months.

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