Israelis will return to the ballot box for the third consecutive national election in 11 months on March 2 after its top politicians failed yet again to build a governing coalition, in the latest twist in a sprawling and unprecedented crisis that has left the country in political limbo for a year. According the law, the Knesset was automatically dispersed at midnight on Wednesday, December 11, but lawmakers continued debating until early Thursday on the date of the vote.
Last month, far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three corruption cases, which could damage his bid to stay in office after the next elections. In a video posted online only hours before the 22nd Knesset was dispersed, an unabashed Netanyahu continued with his demagogic incitement against Israel’s Arab population, saying that the main opposition party, Blue & White, “tried to do everything to establish a minority government with the supporters of terror [Joint List MKs] Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, and they failed at that.”
According to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, 59% of Israelis say they wanted Netanyahu to step down after he was indicted by the attorney general. Under Israeli law, Netanyahu would be forced to leave his post if convicted, but can remain in office while legal proceedings including appeals are ongoing. The whole process of indictment and trial could last for as long as two years.
Joint List chairman, MK Odeh (Hadash) said that the four parties comprising the list will remain united in the upcoming March 2020 election. “We played an important role in preventing Netanyahu from forming a government and in averting him from receiving immunity. We have made it half way there. Now we have another election. We promise our public to stay united as the Joint List,” Odeh says in a statement.
“The upcoming election will be the swan song of the indicted resident of Balfour Street,” added Odeh on Twitter, referring to the prime minister, whose residence is on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. “We will conclude them with an historic achievement of 15 seats,” he said.
A Tuesday poll by Channel 13 showed Blue & White increasing its lead over the Likud in a third round of elections, expanding its current one-seat advantage to a four-seat lead — 37 seats to the Likud’s 33, if the latter is headed by Netanyahu. Furthermore, the far-right-messianic bloc of parties backing Netanyahu is expected to drop three seats from its current total of 55 to 52, far short of the 61 seats it would need to form a coalition in the 120-seat Knesset.
The Channel 13 poll predicts that the Joint List will win 13 seats, the four-party bloc’s current strength in the 22nd Knesset, which represents 2 less than its leaders are aiming for. Regardless, Netanyahu and the right-wing bloc are much weaker than they were a year ago, while Blue & White and the Joint List may be moving closer to a combined total of 61-seats.