Knesset to hold vote on dissolution, date for elections

Motion follows collapse of Netanyahu’s coalition; polls indicate likely win for Likud; Arab parties to unite

Israeli lawmakers will hold a vote Wednesday on the dissolution of Knesset and setting a date for the upcoming elections – less than two years after the previous polls – following a tumultuous week that saw the collapse of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.

Knesset party heads will meet with Speaker Yuli Edelstein to discuss the specifics of the general elections, which will likely occur in March 2015.

After the meeting, a motion to dissolve the current Knesset will undergo a preliminary reading, where it will likely be approved before being finalized on Monday.

Netanyahu on Tuesday announced early elections after having dismissed senior coalition partners and centrist leaders Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

“In the current situation and with the current government, it is impossible to lead,” Netanyahu said at a press conference.

“I will not tolerate an opposition in my government,” he said of the sackings, adding that he would call for the parliament to be dissolved “as soon as possible.”

“I won’t accept ministers attacking the policy and head of the government from within,” he said in a statement. “In a word — it’s called a putsch.”

“Frequent elections are not a good thing, but a government with no governance and ministers acting against it from within is much worse,” he said in televised remarks.

The Yesh Atid party, which is headed by Lapid, condemned Netanyahu’s decision, saying the PM “failed in his management of the country and in dealing with the needs of the Israeli public.”

“The firing of ministers is an act of cowardice and loss of control,” a party statement read. “We are sad to see that the prime minister has chosen to act without consideration for the national interests and to drag Israel into unnecessary elections – which will harm the economy and Israeli society – all for narrow political interests and a surrender to the ultra-orthodox parties, the powerful central committee of the Likud and outside lobby groups. ”

The remaining Yesh Atid ministers also tendered their resignations following the dismissal of Lapid.

In a phone conversation between the PM and Lapid, the latter said, “I expect you to act responsibly and to stop dragging the IDF and our soldiers into an election for your political needs.”

Polls indicate likely victory for Likud

Polls conducted by two major Israeli TV stations indicate that Netanyahu’s Likud party would make significant gains at the expense of Lapid and Livni’s parties if elections were held today, with 22 seats. The Jewish Home party would win 17 seats, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party 12 seats, Labor 13 seats, Yesh Atid nine, Arab parties 13, Meretz seven and Livni’s Hatnua four.

Following the announcement Arab party leaders met to discuss the possibility of joining forces.

United Arab List-Ta’al, Balad and Hadash are looking to work together especially since the threshold for participating in the Knesset was raised from 2 to 3.25 percent in March 2014.

“Now, more than any elections in the past, we must act with the utmost responsibility and create a united Arab list that will keep the unique political platforms for each party, while raising the level of Arab representation from 11 seats to 16,” Balad MK Hanin Zoabi was quoted by Israeli news site Ynet as saying. “There is no way to deal with the rising racism without uniting the Arab parties.”

Sources told Ynet that the parties agreed in theory to unite, but that issues remain over who will lead a unified party.

The US State Department issued a statement regarding the announcement of early elections in Israel, saying that it hoped the new Israeli government would be open to resuming peace negotiations.

Secretary of State John Kerry refrained from making any specific comments about the coalition collapse, but did say that: “We will continue to be supportive of our friend and our ally, the state of Israel.”