On June 13, the Israeli parliament will hold a confidence vote on a new coalition that would unseat the country’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
If the newly-formed coalition succeeds in winning the majority of seats in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), the new government will be sworn in the same day, ending a political deadlock which has dogged Israel since 2019.
Netanyahu led the country for the past 12 years. But elections have failed to form a government since 2019. The fourth round of voting in two years was held in March, but the winners this time decided to end the deadlock by choosing a new prime minister.
Naftali Bennett, a Netanyahu protege and leader of the right-wing Yamina party, struck a deal with Netanyahu’s rivals to form a new coalition and take over as prime minister.
It’s not going down well with Netanyahu. After the new coalition announced on May 30 that it was able to secure a majority of seats in the Knesset, he claimed the process was rigged.
"We are witnessing the greatest election fraud in the history of the country, in my opinion in the history of any democracy,” Netanyahu said.
Trouble is, that’s a false statement. Netanyahu provided no evidence to back it up.
Netanyahu’s posture also contradicts the spirit of a pledge he made in March, when he called the voting a “festival of democracy” and vowed to accept the results even if he lost.
The Times of Israel, an Israeli English-language newspaper, reported following the elections on March 31 that the Central Elections Committee handed over verified election results to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, saying that “no significant evidence of voter fraud was found.”
There was nothing unusual about the March elections in Israel other than the size of the voter turnout. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a U.S. lobbying organization, reported that 70 percent of eligible Israelis turned out to vote, compared to 68.5 percent in 2019.
“Despite a contentious election season, the Knesset was chosen in accordance with the rule of law,” the report said.
Bennett responded to Netanyahu in a televised speech on June 6, urging him to exit peacefully. Changing the government is a natural event in any democratic country, he said, and no one monopolizes the government in Israel.
"Netanyahu, don't leave scorched earth behind you. All of us, the entire nation, want to remember the good you did during your service," Bennett said.
Reuters reported that Netanyahu is basing his claims of fraud on a previous campaign promise from Bennett to never collaborate with non-right-wing parties. Bennett and allied opposition leader Yair Lapid formed a coalition across the political spectrum.
That’s politics, not election fraud.
In all, 13 political parties won seats in the Knesset following the recent election. Netanyahu’s Likud party and his allies won 52 seats, while his opponents won 57.
That effectively put control of the Knesset and choosing the prime minister in the hands of two small parties that could deliver the votes needed for a majority of 61 seats: Bennett’s Yamina party and Ra’am, an Arab Islamist party led by Mansour Abbas.
Parliamentary elections are held in Israel every four years. The voters choose parties rather than candidates, and control of the Knesset and the prime minister’s seat is determined based on the voting results and factional alliances.
In the past, Netanyahu’s struggle to form a coalition pushed him into voicing a willingness to partner with Ra’am.
However, this week, in an apparent reversal, he denounced his opponents via Twitter for including the Ra’am party in the new governing coalition:
“Bennett sold the Negev to RAAM! All right-wing Knesset members must oppose this dangerous left-wing government.”
Netanyahu, 71, is fighting corruption charges for allegedly taking gifts and doing official favors for supporters. He is the first Israeli prime minister to go on trial while in office. There is no requirement for him to step down under Israeli law.