JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) — Israel’s outgoing coalition government will move a bill to dissolve parliament this week, putting the country on track for its fifth election in three years, a government minister said Tuesday.
The news comes after the prime minister, Naftali Bennett, announced a day earlier that he would dissolve the coalition formed with eight forms of different ideologies and call for early elections. Various defections from the ranks of the Yamina Party had left the coalition without a parliamentary majority.
Bennett cited the failure to expand a law granting special legal status to settlers in the West Bank as the main reason for the new elections earlier this month. His main aide, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, will take over as caretaker prime minister until a new executive is formed after elections in October.
Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, a member of Lapid’s Yes Atid party, told Israel’s Cannes public television that the coalition will put the bill up for an early vote on Wednesday.
“We expect to complete the process within a week,” Cohen said. “The intention is to finish as soon as possible and go ahead with the election.”
The new elections raise the possibility that the current opposition president, Benjamin Netanyahu, who ruled the country for several years, could return to power. Netanyahu, who was defeated by an eight-party coalition after four inconclusive elections, was largely seen as a referendum on his ability to govern. Coalition groups of progressive pacifist factions who oppose Israeli settlements to ultra-nationalists who reject the creation of a Palestinian state, and the only thing that united them was opposition to Netanyahu.
Netanyahu is on trial for corruption, but denies any wrongdoing and has repeatedly called the charges a witch hunt to oust power. Israeli law does not explicitly state that a prosecuted politician cannot hold office.
As politicians prepare for elections in the fall, several members of the coalition are likely to pass a law before the dissolution of the Knesset that would bar a legislator accused of a crime from serving as prime minister.
The leader of the New Hope Party, Minister of Justice, Gideon Saar, said in statements to Army Radio that his formation would have supported that criterion and that he would vote in favor of it if he appeared before the chamber.