Israelis woke up on Thursday morning to what seemed like a bad case of deja vu. Plastered on their newspapers, TV and mobile screens, was news that many had hoped would never come: they would be heading into an unprecedented third election cycle.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted overnight Wednesday to hold another round of elections — the third in one year — on March 2, 2020.
The decision came after both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his opponent Benny Gantz failed, again, to form governing coalitions following the last elections in September.
The two rivals also failed, after weeks of negotiations, to agree on the proposition of a broad unity government in which the two leaders would share power.
According to reports, the negotiations fell apart over disagreements on who would serve as prime minister first in the rotation, as well as Gantz’s refusal to serve under Netanyahu, who is facing criminal charges of bribery and corruption.
Netanyahu has is reportedly holding off on requesting parliamentary immunity — something analysts have said is a major motivating factor for the disgraced premiere to continue his election bid.
Haaretz reported that Netanyahu held meetings with his legal staff Wednesday on “whether it would be legally wise to forgo his right to request immunity…in if he and his rivals manage to overcome the current political deadlock and set up a government,” adding that Gantz said he would be “willing to negotiate” with Netanyahu if he did not request immunity.
“It now seems that we will be going into a third election cycle today because of Netanyahu’s attempt to obtain immunity,” Gantz said at a Knesset conference, adding that the premiere’s “use of the immunity law is out of proportion.”
By Thursday afternoon, Netanyahu announced that he would be quitting his ministerial posts that he holds aside from prime minister, including health minister, social welfare minister, Diaspora minister and agricultural minister.
In a video posted to his Twitter on Wednesday, Netanyahu told supporters that Blue and White, Gantz’s party, “forced a new election on us.”
“To prevent this from happening again, there is only one thing to do: win big – and that’s exactly what we do!,” he said.
Israel’s Channel 13 released a new set of polls on Tuesday, which predicted that in a new election, Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party would win 37 out 120 Knesset seats while Likud would get 33.