Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, the Likud, was recently declared the winner in Israel’s parliamentary elections. Now they may face a second election, because of an inability to organize with their traditional allies. At the heart of the matter is one of Netanyahu’s long-time cabinet members, Avigdor Liberman.
Despite a final vote certification that placed the Likud’s representation at 35 seats, equal to that of Benny Gantz’ center-right Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) party, the expectation was that Netanyahu would retain the Prime Ministership after 64 members of the new Knesset recommended him for the job. Netanyahu’s experience and his deep ties to the U.S. Republican party secured the nomination from many of the smaller parties.
Netanyahu is seen as the “right-wing” choice. Blue and White, despite being a center-right party, was the group with the greatest chance of defeating the Likud, and therefore Benny Gantz was supported by many on the “left wing” of Israeli politics.
Following the elections, however, Netanyahu has been unable to get the coalition who nominated him for the PM position to approve a new slate of subordinates. Rather, he has been unable to get any of the smaller parties to sign on.
At issue is the passage of a bill which would require more ultra-orthodox Jewish citizens to perform military service. Netanyahu’s coalition partners are firmly split on the issue, and choosing one group over the other would risk losing one of the groups Netanyahu needs to govern. Likud representatives have suggested a middle ground, but Liberman, the head of the smaller Israel Beytenu party, refuses to allow the bill to be watered down.
Instead, he is calling for new elections. As of Monday night, a bill to dissolve the new Knesset passed; if it clears the remaining parliamentary hurdles and is successfully voted on Wednesday, new elections will be held.
Reports from the Jerusalem Post indicate that Trump officials, most notably Jared Kushner, are attempting to pressure Liberman to capitulate; according to their sources, Trump administration officials had successfully influenced Liberman before, by convincing him to nominate Netanyahu following the election.
A failure to seat new leadership for months would not only endanger Netanyahu’s seating as Prime Minister, it would also keep him from moving, as had been expected, to pass rules which would immunize him from prosecution on multiple existing corruption charges.