Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a stunning defeat after he failed to meet the deadline to form a new government, casting a cloud over his future as prime minister and thrusting Israel into the chaos of a new election again.
Just seven weeks ago Netanyahu basked in what he thought was victory after the elections in Israel. Despite a looming indictment on corruption charges, he was confident that he would serve a fourth consecutive term and a fifth overall as Prime Minister.
But after weeks of negotiations, his plans ran aground on a power struggle between two blocs of his potential right-wing coalition — the secular ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox factions — who refused to compromise on proposed legislation on military service.
His dream of becoming the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history surpassing the nation’s founding leader, David Ben Gurion, collapsed in a breathtaking display of political maneuvering in recent days.
As Netanyahu, long nicknamed “the magician” for the political wizardry that has kept him in office continuously for the past decade, desperately tried to salvage his fortunes.
With his conservative Likud party claiming it had locked down 60 seats, just one shy of a majority, he desperately sought out new coalition partners but was rebuffed.
At the same time, his party advanced a bill to dissolve Parliament and go to new elections. That bill passed shortly after midnight on Thursday, with Parliament voting to disperse itself just a month after it was sworn in.
Israelis will return to the ballot box in elections now set for Sept. 17, the first time in the country’s history that it has been forced to hold a new national election because of the failure to form a government after the previous election.
Mr. Netanyahu’s legal troubles — he is facing charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases — also hampered his chances of forming an alternative government and weakened his leverage in coalition negotiations.
Mr. Netanyahu’s failure to form a government also stopped his efforts to advance legislation giving him immunity from prosecution. The attorney general has set a court hearing for Mr. Netanyahu in early October, when there may still not be a new government.
The reopened political season in Israel is also likely to overshadow and contribute to even more delay for the Trump administration’s long delayed Mideast peace plan.
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