Explained: What’s really happening in Israel

For the first time in Israel’s election history, the country will be holding two national votes in a year. Reason: Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to secure a coalition government for his fifth term. As he was unable to reconcile two main right-wing parties disagreeing over Israel’s conscription law, the Israeli parliament voted to be dissolved.

Although Netanyahu won the election, he failed to patch together a coalition to form the government in the mandated six weeks. This is the first time a presumed prime minister of Israel has failed to form the government, says Vox.

Netanyahu currently stands between two opposing sides of a conscription bill that requires religious students in Israel to serve in the armed forces.

Lieberman, orthodox parties bicker over conscription

Former defence minister and leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party Avigdor Lieberman had a strong disagreement with other orthodox parties.

At the core of the tension is conscription bill that requires ultra-Orthodox, Haredi men to serve in the army like the rest of the population.

The Times of Israel explains that the bill has annual targets for Haredi conscription and financially penalises yeshivas (religious training schools) if they do not adhere to the law by cutting state funding. Moreover, it prevents yeshiva students from deferring their service.

The bill requires 4,000 recruits with a year on year 8% increase for the first three years, 6.5% increase for the next three, and 5% increase for the next four. Times of Israel says rabbis from the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael sect oppose the legislation, while those from the Lithuanian sect approve it.

Netanyahu has urged both sides to come together and pass the legislation. Lieberman, a secular conservative, also supports the bill and believes that every Israeli should serve in the army.

Netanyahu’s fifth win, in vain

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 35 seats of the total 120. While this is not a major victory, prime ministers in Israel usually gather majority support by creating a coalition.

Journalist Zack Beauchamp said, “In this case, a group of smaller right-wing parties expected to back Netanyahu seems to have captured 65 seats, enough to give him a 10-seat majority over the rival centre-left bloc.”

Netanyahu was already in a precarious position during his election this year, because he was facing an indictment for corruption, including fraud and bribery.

What’s next for Netanyahu?

Netanyahu will head into another election on September 17. Experts say the fallout over the bill will likely mean reduced power for Netanyahu.

There is no guarantee that the second election will solve the deadlock that led to another vote. In fact, Reuters reports that members of the Likud party have accused Lieberman of deliberately creating political chaos so he can oust Netanyahu in the next election.

Lieberman has denied these claims.

Reuters explains that if Netanyahu was unable to form the government, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin could choose a different lawmaker to lead parliament. If Rivlin did, he would nominate former military official Benny Gantz, some experts believed.

Gantz established the Israel Resilience Party, the ‘blue and white’ centrist party, that could challenge Netanyahu and push him out entirely. The Blue and White Party and Likud party both won 35 seats.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

Benjamin NetanyahuIsrael