Israel set to get new PM and hold fifth election in less than four years

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Israel set to get new PM and hold fifth election in less than four years
Yair Lapid (left) and Naftali Bennett (19/06/22)Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Yair Lapid (left) will take over from Naftali Bennett (right)

Yair Lapid is poised to become Israel's new prime minister, with parliament expected to dissolve itself later on Wednesday and trigger the country's fifth election in less than four years.

Mr Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party and foreign minister, will take over from Naftali Bennett under an existing power-sharing deal.

They formed an unlikely eight-party coalition after last year's election.

However it collapsed last week, clearing the way for fresh polls.

It also creates an opening for Israel's longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to return to office despite being on trial on corruption charges which he denies.

Mr Netanyahu, whose right-wing Likud party is predicted to remain the largest in the Knesset, was ousted by Mr Bennett and Mr Lapid last June, breaking two years of political stalemate.

Benjamin Netanyahu attends a session of the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem (22 June 2022)Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Benjamin Netanyahu said the collapse of the coalition government was "great news" for Israelis

Mr Lapid, a 58-year-old former TV news anchor, will serve as caretaker prime minister until an election is held in late October or early November.

He was tasked with forming a governing coalition after Mr Netanyahu and his allies were unable to secure a majority in the wake of the March 2021 poll.

Mr Lapid agreed to rotate the premiership with Mr Bennett, head of the right-wing Yamina party, as part of a deal that brought together the coalition. Mr Bennett had been due to hand over power to him in September 2023.

The government was the most diverse in Israel's history, comprising eight parties from across the political spectrum - including those with ideologically opposing views. It also contained an independent Arab party for the first time since the state was established in 1948.

Despite Mr Bennett's attempts to focus only on issues where parties could work together, it started to fray towards the end of its first year, becoming a minority government when a member of Yamina quit earlier this month.

In an emotional TV address last week, Mr Bennett said he and Mr Lapid had "turned over every single rock" to try to keep the coalition going, but that they had run out of options.

Mr Netanyahu welcomed the announcement as "great news for millions of Israeli citizens".

Recent opinion polls suggest that Likud and Yesh Atid would gain seats if an election were held now, but that no coalition would be able to form a majority government, resulting in further stalemate.

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