Knesset plenum
Knesset plenum Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

A bill to dissolve the 23rd Knesset and force early elections is being held up in the Knesset by Likud lawmakers, who have used parliamentary procedures to force repeated delays on the bill’s vote in the Knesset plenum.

On December 2nd, the Knesset voted 61 to 54 to giving preliminary support for a bill sponsored by opposition parties calling for the dissolution of the 23rd Knesset and new elections – Israel’s fourth general election in under two years.

Blue and White backed the bill, defying the Likud’s call to vote the measure down, amid the ongoing dispute over the state budget, with no spending bill passed ahead of the December 23rd deadline.

While the Knesset House Committee approved the bill last week for its full three votes in the Knesset plenum, tentatively setting the date for new elections as March 16th, 2021, the bill has been prevented from being brought for a vote, with the Likud forcing the dissolution bill off of the Knesset plenum’s agenda for Tuesday.

The Likud, which holds the Knesset chairmanship, shortened the plenum’s session Tuesday, citing the Hanukkah festival.

In addition, the Likud forced a last-minute inclusion of a new bill for deliberation in the Knesset, pushing the vote on the dissolution bill off of Tuesday’s agenda.

While supporters of the bill have sought to reschedule the vote to Wednesday, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) has blocked the move.

The vote has now been tentatively rescheduled for next Monday, though it remains unclear if the bill’s supporters will manage to bring the measure up for the final three votes.

According to a report by Channel 12, the Likud is hoping to block any vote on the bill, thus preventing its passage.

This despite the fact that new elections will be automatically called and the current Knesset dissolved next Wednesday – unless a last-minute deal is reached between the Likud and Blue and White for passage of a spending plan; a prospect which is widely considered to be extremely unlikely.

Nevertheless, the Likud is reportedly looking to block passage of the dissolution bill, almost guaranteeing that the Knesset will be automatically dissolved next Wednesday, and new elections fixed for March 23rd – just days before the Passover festival begins.

Doing so would both block changes to the election law which the Likud opposes, as well ensure Netanyahu retains the premiership in the transitional government.

The dissolution bill includes provisions limiting the use of social media by election campaigns, and also restructures state funding of political campaigns – both changes the Likud is hoping to block from going into effect.

In addition, there is concern in the Likud that rogue MKs from within the party could vote in favor of the dissolution bill should it be brought to a vote in the Knesset plenum – thus allowing Blue and White to activate a clause in the coalition agreement, forcing Netanyahu to yield the premiership to Benny Gantz during the transition.