TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced Monday that they plan to dissolve the Knesset next week, setting the stage for a fifth round of general elections in less than four years.
“We have a country that needs running‚” Bennett said in a televised joint statement with Lapid, just as the lights in the press room momentarily turned off. “How symbolic,” Lapid said.
Bennett and Lapid had said earlier that they had “exhausted options to stabilize” their coalition, made up of an ideological kaleidoscope of parties, including left-wing peaceniks, right-wing supporters of Jewish settlers and, for the first time in Israeli history, an Arab Islamist party. The coalition united a year ago by their desire to oust former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett listed the achievements of the government, including success in “preventing the signing” of a new nuclear deal between Iran and world powers “without ruining relations with the United States.”
Since the nuclear talks froze in March, Iran has raced toward securing a “significant quantity of enriched uranium,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said earlier this month. Under the original accord, Iran had agreed to sharp limits on the quantity and quality of enriched uranium it possessed.
For weeks, the Israeli ruling coalition has been teetering on the brink of collapse as three members, including two from Bennett’s own right-wing Yamina party, defected, stripping the government of its majority and its ability to pass legislation.
To accelerate the demise of the coalition earlier this month, Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, rallied his party and other usually pro-settler lawmakers of the opposition to vote down a usually uncontroversial measure that enables civilian law to be applied to Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.
Bennett said in the televised statement that the expiration of the West Bank law would have caused “damage to Israel’s security and ensuing chaos that I cannot allow.” The expected dissolution of the Knesset next week means an automatic renewal of the law.
“It is good news for millions of Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said in a video post on Twitter. “A government that will return national pride to the citizens of Israel, so you can walk on the streets with your heads held high.”
“What we need to do today is go back to the concept of Israeli unity. Not to let dark forces tear us apart from within,” Lapid said in the televised statement, referring to the division that intensified over Netanyahu’s 12 years as prime minister.
The development comes a week after President Biden announced plans for a July 14 visit to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia. His visit will take place as planned, according to Israeli media, which said he will meet with Lapid.