Israel will have its third national elections in less than a year after parties failed to form a governing coalition by the given deadline. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is currently working to schedule elections for March 2 rather than hold elections on the holiday of Purim.
In Israel, the situation is unprecedented. The third round of elections comes as Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, faces an indictment on bribery and fraud charges, the first time an Israeli prime minister has ever been indicted while in office. Netanyahu is alleged to have advanced government policies beneficial to the business of Israeli telecommunications mogul Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for more favorable coverage on the popular Walla!News website, which is owned by Elovitch.
Efforts to form a so-called “unity government” between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Benny Gantz’s center-left Blue and White came to naught. Gantz had originally demanded Netanyahu step down due to the indictment, or iron out a compromise that would allow Netanyahu to leave politics for a time to fight the indictment in court.
Netanyahu vehemently denies the charges against him. In November he slammed the indictment as an “an attempted coup against a prime minister.” He further alleged that the legal system was “polluted” and that “they didn’t look for the truth, they looked to come after me.”
A sitting prime minister may seek immunity from prosecution by a Knesset vote.
“We will be going to a third election cycle today because of Netanyahu’s attempt to obtain immunity,” Gantz told reporters earlier on Wednesday. “We must stand in opposition of this. . . . There is no room for immunity.”
Netanyahu blamed Gantz’s party for the breakdown in negotiations, accusing the party of squandering an opportunity to annex part of the West Bank.
“They forced new elections on us,” he said. “It is unnecessary and in order to avoid it happening again there is one thing to do and that is to win, and win big — and that is what we’ll do.”