Israeli Prime Minister resigns, triggering new round of elections : NPR

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday that Israel’s governing coalition had collapsed and the country would hold new elections.

Oren Ben Hakoon/AFP via Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Oren Ben Hakoon/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday that Israel’s governing coalition had collapsed and the country would hold new elections.

Oren Ben Hakoon/AFP via Getty Images

The most diverse Israeli government in history, formed for the first time with an Arab political party, dissolves following a disagreement over the future of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he will step down after lawmakers vote to dissolve parliament next week, and centrist Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will take over as prime minister. Elections are expected to take place in October.

This will be the fifth round of Israeli elections in just over three years, and the country’s polarizing former leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, will try to return to power once again.

“We did everything we could to preserve this government,” Bennett said in a live televised speech on Monday. “Believe me, we’ve turned every stone.”

Midway through Bennett’s speech, the room suddenly went dark as the lights went out for a moment.

“How symbolic,” Lapid said into the microphone.

Bennett’s government collapsed after several lawmakers – primarily his own right-wing Jewish nationalist allies – withdrew their support for the ideologically mixed coalition that included a secular Jewish party and pro-Palestinian politicians.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Bennett lost his parliamentary majority and could not get enough votes to extend the legal protections – renewed every five years – that granted Jewish settlers in the West Bank rights that Palestinians in the territory do not have: the ability to receive health insurance and to practice law and be tried in Israeli civil courts.

Major human rights groups say this two-tier legal system for Israeli settlers and Palestinians amounts to apartheid.

Without renewing legal protections for settlers, Bennett said, “Israel will suffer heavy security damage and constitutional chaos. This I could not allow.

By dissolving the parliament, the protections will be frozen until three months after the election of a new parliament. Bennett said there was “urgency” in the decision to avoid “the chaos that comes with it”.

President Biden will be received by future Prime Minister Yair Lapid during his visit to Israel next month. “Our working assumption is still that the trip will proceed as planned,” the US Embassy in Israel told NPR in a statement.

The upcoming elections will likely focus on the issue of Netanyahu’s potential return to power and the possibility of a future Arab-Jewish political partnership.

“While this government has been one of the shortest in Israel to hold office, it has played a historic role in including an Arab party in the coalition and in the decisions made by the national leadership, and thus paving the way to the possibility of greater inclusion by the Arab minority in the political process and in Israeli society as a whole,” said Yohanan Plesner of the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute.

In a video statement, Netanyahu denounced the incumbent government as dependent on “supporters of terrorism,” an insult aimed at the Arab Islamist party that participated in the government.

The leader of this party, Mansour Abbas, has declared that he also wants to be the kingmaker of the next coalition.

“It’s a historic step. It’s still ongoing. We’re just getting started,” Abbas said. “We proved it was possible.”

Leave a Comment