Israel's government collapses, triggering 4th election in 2 years

Benjamin Netanyahu.
(Image credit: Yonathan Sindel/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel is headed to its fourth election in under two years, following the government's collapse early Wednesday morning.

Because the Knesset, Israel's parliament, was unable to pass a budget by the midnight Tuesday deadline, the government automatically dissolved and elections were set for March 23.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will now have to see if he can fend off challenges from three former aides who broke away from his Likud party. In May, the right-wing Netanyahu formed an alliance with center-left Defense Minister Benny Gantz in order to form an "emergency" government, with Gantz named the "alternate prime minister" under the promise that he would become prime minister at the end of the year. This move alienated many of Gantz's supporters, The Associated Press reports, and his bloc is not expected to do well in the March elections.

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Last year, Netanyahu was hit with corruption charges, and witnesses will begin appearing in court for his trial in February. Gantz's Blue and White party called Netanyahu out on Tuesday night, saying, "A criminal defendant with three indictments is dragging the country to a fourth round of elections. If there wasn't a trial, there would be a budget and there wouldn't be elections."

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