Report: Netanyahu considering going to new elections

After coalition talks hit impasse, Netanyahu leaning towards dissolving Knesset and going to new elections, Likud officials warn.

David Rosenberg,

Netanyahu and Liberman
Netanyahu and Liberman
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is considering dissolving the new Knesset and heading to snap elections, sources in the Likud said Thursday, in a thinly-veiled threat to Yisrael Beytenu chief Avidgor Liberman.

Coalition talks broke down this week, amid a failure to reach a break through with Yisrael Beytenu, the secular right-wing party which draws most of its support from immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Netanyahu, who was tapped by President Reuven Rivlin to form the next government, passed the original 28-day deadline to build a new coalition, and is set to reach the new deadline on May 29th. If the prime minister fails to build a majority government by that date, he will lose the mandate to form a government.

The relationship between Yisrael Beytenu and the haredi parties, who clashed during the previous government over issues of religion-and-state – in particular the future of the draft deferment program for yeshiva students – remains the most difficult issue preventing the creation of a new government.

While Netanyahu’s previous government was able to form initially with a narrow 61-seat majority without Liberman, following last month’s election, the right-wing – haredi bloc was left with a narrower 65-seat majority in the Knesset, with five seats going to the Yisrael Beytenu party. That means that Netanyahu will be unable to reach the 61-seat majority without Liberman.

On Thursday, the Likud accused Liberman of preventing the establishment of a new government, noting that he had already been offered the Defense Ministry, one of his key demands.

After the failure to win Liberman’s support, Netanyahu called party leaders in for an urgent meeting at 8:00 p.m. – a meeting Liberman refused to attend.

Given the current impasse, Netanyahu said in a closed-door meeting that he is seriously considering dissolving the new Knesset and taking the country to snap elections, according to Likud officials Yediot Ahronot reported Thursday night.

The claim, widely seen as a veiled threat to Yisrael Beytenu, was accompanied by a barrage of criticism from Likud lawmakers who cited the party’s endorsement of Netanyahu for the premiership ahead of last month’s election. The Likud also warned that Liberman’s refusal to join the coalition could lead to the establishment of a left-wing government.

“Liberman promised his voters that he would back the formation of a right-wing government led by Netanyahu,” Likud officials said Thursday. “Now he’s using every excuse possible to block the establishment of that very kind of government, making it possible for the establishment of a left-wing government.”