Incumbent Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will become the country’s caretaker premier until elections on November 1.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, leave the podiums after a joint statement at the Knesset.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, leave the podiums after a joint statement at the Knesset. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP)

Israel’s parliament has voted to dissolve itself and send the country to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s Foreign Minister and architect of the outgoing coalition government, will become the country’s caretaker prime minister after midnight on Friday. New elections will be held on November 1.

Following the vote, Lapid embraced Naftali Bennett, Israel's shortest serving prime minister, before the two swapped chairs. He posted, “thanks, Naftali, my brother” on Twitter.

Lapid will be the 14th prime minister of Israel.

The government collapsed just over a year after it was formed in a historic move that saw longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu ousted after 12 years in power by a coalition of ideologically diverse parties, the first to include an Arab faction.

The motion to dissolve passed with 92 lawmakers in favour, and none against, after days of bickering by coalition and opposition lawmakers over the date of new elections and other last-minute legislation.

The move brings a formal end to a political experiment in which eight parties from across the Israeli spectrum tried to find common ground after a period of prolonged gridlock in which the country held four elections in two years.

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Ongoing political crisis

The upcoming elections are an extension of Israel’s protracted political crisis, at the heart of which sits Netanyahu and his ongoing corruption trial. 

The four deadlocked elections in the previous three years were largely referenda on Netanyahu’s fitness to serve while facing charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

Lapid, a former talk-show host, is expected to campaign as caretaker prime minister to keep the job as the main alternative to Netanyahu, and will likely get an early boost when he welcomes President Joe Biden to the country next week.

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Polls by Israeli media show Netanyahu and his allies are projected to gain seats, although it is unclear whether they would have enough to form a 61-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset. If neither he nor anyone else succeeds in doing so, Israel could go to elections yet again.

On Wednesday, Bennett said he would be taking a hiatus from politics and would not be running in the upcoming elections. 

His Yamina party was riven by infighting and splintered following the formation of the government last year as its members broke away in protest of what they considered Bennett’s excessive compromises to more liberal coalition allies.

The death blow came earlier this month, when the government failed to renew an emergency law that preserves the status of illegal Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank. 

Because the Knesset was dissolved before the end of the month, the emergency law is automatically renewed until after the formation of a new government.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies