Israel's diverse eight-party governing coalition will dissolve parliament before July, setting up another round of elections in the fall, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced Monday night. Bennett and Yair Lapid, the head of the centrist Yesh Atid party and current foreign minister, cobbled together an unlikely coalition of parties across the ideological spectrum a year ago to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister. The new election, Israel's fifth in three years, will most likely take place in October.
As soon as the Knesset, or parliament, votes to dissolve the government, Lapid will take over as interim prime minister and serve until the election. Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party is the favorite to win the most seats in the Knesset, but polls suggest it could fall a few seats short of a majority. Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, cheered the collapse of the Bennett-rapid government and predicted he will return to power.
The government coalition lasted longer than some analysts had predicted it would, and it managed to pass Israel's first budget in three years and steady the country's foreign relations. Its collapse was precipitated by defections from Bennett's hardline Yamina party and Arab members' opposition to renewing a law that codifies a two-tier legal system for Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The law has to be renewed every five years, and dissolving parliament will keep it in force even though it failed to pass.
Bennett and Lapid jointly announced the decision to dissolve parliament, standing on the same stage in a show of unity. "Even if we're going to elections in a few months, our challenges as a state cannot wait," Lapid said. "What we need to do today is go back to the concept of Israeli unity. Not to let dark forces tear us apart from within."