Israeli voters will have a second chance to choose their next government on September 17, after a small conservative party blocked a coalition between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and smaller parties on the right.
Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, who heads the small Israel Beiteinu party, refused to serve in Netanyahu’s government with religious parties unless they agreed to allow military conscription for religious students.
For decades, Israel has exempted religious students from conscription — a policy that has become increasingly controversial as the religious population has grown. Many Israelis, most of whom are secular, resent the religious military exemption.
Netanyahu had convinced his other coalition partners to accept a compromise that would save the government, the Times of Israel reported. However, Liberman refused the deal. The prime minister then led his party into a vote to dissolve the government and hold new elections, rather than allowing President Reuven Rivlin to invite the leader of another party to assemble a government, and rather than acceding to opposition demands that he step down.
The new elections could delay the announcement of President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East. The news also came during the visit of White House adviser Jared Kushner to the region. Currently, the Trump administration is planning to hold an economic conference in Bahrain at the end of June to promote investment in the Palestinian Authority as part of an overall political compromise between Israel and her Palestinian neighbors.
It is not clear who would win new elections. Israeli voters have tended to support conservative parties in recent years, but Netanyahu could face new and more determined challenges following the collapse of the coalition negotiations.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.