Experts said that a new general election may turn to an internal fight for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the coalition government collapsed, leading the country to the fourth elections within two years.
The government, formed just seven months ago, was plagued by consistent infighting. As the deadline for the approval of an annual budget passed on midnight, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, automatically dissolved. Elections are set for late March 2021, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.
The government, led by Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, failed to tackle the crisis or any other issues. Netanyahu is under indictment on three corruption charges.
According to the coalition agreement, Netanyahu was supposed to hand over the premiership to Gantz in November 2021. From the beginning, many believed Netanyahu would not keep his promise because he wanted to remain in power while on trial. While he has now averted vacating his seat for Gantz, a new election may be a major gamble for Netanyahu.
In recent months, two opponents from within his bloc have emerged, threatening his ability to form a government after the election.
“The electoral mass may look similar, but the coalition dynamics will be different. The competition to Netanyahu is coming from the right this time,” said Jonathan Rynhold, professor with the Political Studies Department at Bar Ilan University, adding that it is an internal fight and Netanyahu’s position “has definitely weakened.”
Another factor that may change this election is the new American administration.
“This could be a major campaign point,” said Dr. Yonatan Freeman, from the Political Science Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Issues such as the Iranian nuclear deal or negotiations with the Palestinians could return to the forefront.
“The more foreign policy issues arise, this usually sways more votes to the right,” Freeman added.
As Israel appears to be heading to a third lockdown in order to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the Israelis are more concerned with the fallout of the pandemic.
“Covid-19 is a wild card. If things go wrong, Netanyahu will get blamed and if it goes well, he will get the credit,” Rynhold said.
“If the global crisis continues, people may be more inclined to support the leader in power no matter who it is,” said Freeman.
This new election may pose Netanyahu with the greatest political challenge he has yet to face. As the scene of the battle appears to be an internal one in the right, Israel may be in store for even longer political instability.