Netanyahu fails to form government, setting up new elections in September

Netanyahu fails to form government, setting up new elections in September

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Courtesy: Office of the Prime Minister of Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Courtesy: Office of the Prime Minister of Israel.

Facing three corruption allegations, Netanyahu's traditional mastery of coalition-building fell flat after April elections.

UNITED NATIONS – Israelis will head to the polls again in September after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu missed a midnight deadline on Wednesday to form a ruling coalition after weeks of negotiation with opposition lawmakers.

David Makovsky directs the Project on Arab-Israel Relations at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy.

“Usually part of Netanyahu’s skill has not just been as a virtuoso campaigner, but it has been to navigate the Israeli political spectrum in the aftermath.”

But this year is different, with Netanyahu dogged by three allegations of corruption in the pre-indictment phase and widespread criticism for backing a law that would shield him from prosecution.

“With this election the center said, ‘Look, there’s a legal cloud hanging over you, and until you sort this out, we cannot even entertain preliminary conversations to join your government.’ ”

Scorned by centrists, Netanyahu became more beholden to the political right, but he is also facing pushback there from Orthodox Jewish parties opposed to legislation eliminating religious exemptions to avoid military conscription.

Though Netanyahu faces an uphill battle in the months to come, Makovsky predicts he may target an unlikely Israeli voting block: the country’s more than 1 million Russian speakers.

“There’s been signals of him even trying to invite senior Russian officials to Israel along with John Bolton to try to emphasize that Netanyahu is a uniquely positioned figure to try and bring Trump and Putin together. I know it sounds crazy, but he wants to demonstrate that he has a unique relationship with both figures on the international stage to accentuate his role as a statesman.”

“And I think the center party is going to try focus and focus on democracy and say, ‘Look what he tried to do: He wanted to have what’s called the override bill, that would enable the Knesset to override the court – you’re tinkering with the foundations of Israeli democracy.”

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