Israeli lawmakers take first step towards dissolving parliament

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday voted in a preliminary vote to dissolve parliament, setting the wheels in motion to send the country to its fifth national election in 3 1/2 years.

The development was the first step in a series of votes for the formal dissolution of the 120-seat Knesset. It came two days after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced he was… disbanding its unraveling governing coalition of eight ideologically diverse parties just over a year after taking office.

The historic coalition, which dethroned longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu, has been plagued by infighting and apostasy in recent months. It included moderate parties committed to a two-state solution with the Palestinians, aggressive ultranationalists opposed to a Palestinian state, and a small Islamist faction, the first Arab party to join a government.

A series of proposals to dissolve parliament was passed by a vast majority of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. But to dissolve parliament, a final vote on at least one of the motions is still needed and is expected to take place next week.

Once it’s over, Bennett will step down as Prime Minister and hand over the reins to his ally, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid† New elections are expected to be held in October.

Bennett and Lapid formed their coalition of parties that united solely in their opposition to Netanyahu last year, after four undecided elections in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Parliament was stuck between those who supported a Netanyahu-led government and those who refused to back the forces. with him while he was being charged with corruption.

Netanyahu is on trial and charged with fraud, breach of trust and taking bribes in three high-profile cases. He has denied all wrongdoing and has repeatedly dismissed the charges as part of a witch hunt to remove him from office.

Early polls on Tuesday said Netanyahu’s Likud party will remain the largest in parliament, but a path to forming a majority coalition remains unclear.

After the vote, Bennett wrote on Twitter that he would vote against proposed legislation that would disqualify a lawmaker accused of a crime from becoming prime minister. Several senior members of his coalition said this week they would introduce such a bill, effectively preventing Netanyahu from retaking office.

Bennett said that “certainly on the eve of elections, one cannot try to change the rules of the game,” and that Israeli voters should decide who should run for office.

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