Well, he was on his way to becoming a five-time champion of owning the Israeli Left. He seemed poised to return to his post as Prime Minister of Israel for an unprecedented fifth term. The polls closed on April 9 and it looked like the conservatives had the edge. You need 61 seats to form a government in the Knesset. No party has ever won an outright majority, relying on coalition building since the nation’s birth. Netanyahu’s Likud had always relied on the religious and what the media calls far-right party’s to cross over the finish line. Alas, a bill proposed in March of this year derailed all of that. It dealt with the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox into military service. All Israelis serve in the military unless they’re given a special exemption relating to health or religious reasons (via Reuters):
A decades-old exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews from compulsory military service is a deeply divisive issue in Israel at the heart of a cabinet crisis that could lead to an early election.
A preliminary vote in parliament on a new bill that would maintain the exemption is expected… One faction in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s six-party coalition government has vowed to defy him and oppose the legislation.
That could cause Netanyahu’s government to unravel, setting the stage for the possible dissolution of parliament and a snap election in which he would seek a new mandate to help survive corruption allegations threatening his political survival.
The exemption enjoyed by ultra-Orthodox seminary students has long caused friction in Israel, where Jewish women and men are called up for military service at the age of 18.
And this issue is what caused Israel to hold a historic snap election to occur sometime in the next three months (via NYT):
Big news from Israel today. For those who have not been following: After Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition, the Knesset has just voted to dissolve itself and call new elections, just 7 weeks after the last one. Never happened before in Israeli history.— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) May 29, 2019
Seven weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared “a night of tremendous victory” in Israel’s election, his failure to form a government by midnight Wednesday has turned into a stunning debacle for him and thrust Israel into a new election.
Israelis will return to the ballot box in about three months, the first time in the country’s history that it has been forced to hold a new national election because of a failure to form a government after the previous one.
The Israeli Parliament voted to disperse itself early Thursday, only a month after being sworn in, with a majority of 74 in favor and 45 against in the 120-seat body. One member was absent.
After the April 9 election, Mr. Netanyahu was confident that his conservative Likud party would easily form a coalition with its past right-wing and religious allies. But his plans were stymied by a power struggle between secular ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox factions, who refused to compromise on proposed legislation on military service.
Facing possible corruption charges, Mr. Netanyahu had less political wiggle room to turn to more liberal parties and failed to assemble the 61-seat majority required to form a government.
This is certainly not welcome news to America’s only reliable ally in the Middle East. We’ll keep you updated.