JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel is in unchartered political territory after the newly elected parliament dissolved itself early on Thursday and set another election date, within six months of the previous one.
Just 50 days after he seemed to have scored an impressive victory, cruising to re-election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conceded that he had failed to build a coalition government and pushed through legislation for a do-over. With former ally Avigdor Lieberman breaking up the nationalist bloc that had traditionally uniformly lined up behind Netanyahu, it’s unclear whether a second election will deliver a more decisive verdict.
Either way, it sets Israel up for another raucous three-and-a-half-month-long campaign just after it concluded the last one.
Here’s a look at what comes next:
Since Netanyahu was unable to build a coalition within the time allotted to him by law, and did not want his chief opponent, retired military chief Benny Gantz, to get a chance to do so himself, he pushed for the bill to dissolve parliament and kick off another election campaign.
The new date was set for Sept. 17. The parties intending to run must now choose their leaders and candidates for parliament and embark on expensive campaigns.
After the new election in September, the same process will begin again, with Israel’s largely ceremonial president charged with choosing a candidate for prime minister with the best chance of putting together a stable majority coalition. The candidate then has 42 days to do so and if he fails, the president can technically turn to another candidate and give him 28 days to form an alternative coalition, or declare a coalition impossible and call new elections before a new government is formed – something that, until this week, had never happened in Israel’s history.
NETANYAHU’S LEGAL SITUATION
Israel’s attorney general has recommended pressing criminal charges against the longtime Israeli leader in three separate corruption cases, pending a pre-trial hearing. The charges include allegations that he accepted gifts from billionaire friends and promoted beneficial regulations for a telecom magnate in exchange for positive coverage on a news site. After many delays, the pre-indictment hearing is scheduled for early October.
Assuming he would easily sweep into office, Netanyahu’s allies had begun drafting a contentious bill aimed at granting him immunity from the various corruption charges awaiting him and were looking to push legislation limiting the power of Israel’s Supreme Court and paving Netanyahu’s path to more years in office.
Even if he wins in September, Netanyahu is unlikely to lock down the required political support for his hoped-for immunity before his expected indictment. That would force him to stand trial, and in turn put heavy pressure on him to step aside.
THE PEACE PLAN
President Donald Trump, who enjoys a close relationship with Netanyahu, had vowed to roll out his Middle East peace plan after the Israeli election. The U.S. has scheduled a conference next month in Bahrain to unveil its first phase, an initiative aimed at drawing investment into the Palestinian territories. It’s unclear how the current political shakeup will affect that rollout.
Trump’s top Mideast advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are expected in Israel on Thursday after a visit to Jordan aimed at rallying Arab support for the peace conference. Jordan has restated its commitment to the two-state solution, with the formation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, a position that appears to be at odds with Trump’s still undisclosed “Deal of the Century.”