Israel will hold its fifth general election in less than four years after the country’s broken coalition government decided it could no longer function.
Under an existing agreement, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will swap places with Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid in a momentous political shift. Commentators predict that an election will take place in late October.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister and current head of the opposition, has promised to run for office again.
The news comes after weeks of speculation that the coalition, which is the most diverse in Israel’s history, was on the verge of collapsing.
After a member of Mr Bennett’s own right-wing Yamina party quit the coalition, leaving it with a minority in the 120-seat Knesset, it risked losing a critical vote next week (parliament).
Mr Bennett said he made the “correct decision” for Israel’s security by dissolving the Knesset, which prolonged interim laws that had been jeopardised by the vote.
For weeks, the alliance had been on the verge of collapse. Yamina MK Nir Orbach resigned from the cabinet last week, claiming that it had failed in its basic purpose of “raising [Israelis’] morale,” leaving it with only 59 seats. Others have threatened to revolt as well.
Members of the government were taken aback by the statement on Monday night. According to sources published by the Times of Israel, neither the defence nor the interior ministers were aware of the decision.
Next Monday, the bill to dissolve the Knesset will be put to a vote. If it passes, Mr Bennett will step down and be replaced by centrist Yair Lapid as interim Prime Minister.
After a succession of indecisive elections, the two men established the alliance just over a year ago, removing Israel’s longest-serving leader, Binyamin Netanyahu.
The coalition was put together by eight political groups from all sides of the political spectrum, unified only by the aim to prevent Mr Netanyahu from forming a government.
Mr Netanyahu, who is facing corruption charges that he denies, described it as “wonderful news for millions of Israeli citizens.”
“This government is going home,” he stated, adding that his Likud party would lead a “broad, national administration.”
According to the results of an Israel Channel 12 TV survey released last week, a coalition led by Mr Netanyahu would win the majority of seats in a new election, though it would fall two seats shy of a majority.