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December 3, 2014 11:25 am

Israeli Government Dissolved, General Elections Set for March 17, 2015

avatar by Tzvi Zucker / Tazpit News Agency

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A session of Israel's parliament, the Knesset. Photo: Tazpit News Agency.

Israel is heading for early elections after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party dissolved the current government. Elections for the 20th Knesset will be held on March 17, 2015.

The ruling coalition had appeared shaky for the past few months, as a result of friction over the 2015 budget and the Likud-proposed nationality law. Last ditch efforts to reconcile between Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid ended in failure.

Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party, both center-left leaning parties in the Israeli spectrum, had announced they would not support the “nationality bill” that Netanyahu’s Likud party wanted to pass. Similarly, Netanyahu did not agree with Finance Minister Lapid’s proposed 2015 budget, nor with a law proposed by his party that would allow first time home buyers to purchase apartments without paying VAT (Value Added Tax, currently at 18 percent).

Prime Minister Netanyahu had been complaining publicly since the beginning of the week that the discord in the ruling coalition was making it too hard to govern effectively.

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Had the coalition not been dissolved, the government would probably have fallen anyway. If a bill comes to vote and a minister does not vote for it, they are able to be fired by the prime minister. It was expected that had the nationality bill come up for a vote, both Lapid and Livni would vote against it, and Netanyahu would have fired them then.

One of the side effects of going to early elections is that all budgets are frozen at 2014 levels of spending. Planned increases in educational and defense spending will not be implemented, potentially hurting military preparedness and the school system.

Labor Party leader and leader of the Opposition Isaac Herzog declared he believes he represents a viable alternative to Netanyahu, and hopes to be the one asked to form a government coalition by Israeli President Ruby Rivlin after the elections.

A poll conducted by Teleseker published on Dec. 3 suggested Herzog was being very optimistic. Labor was slated to win 12 seats, down from their current 15. Likud was predicted to grow to 23 from 18. Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi gained five more seats, growing from 12 to 17.

A new party to be formed by Moshe Kahlon is predicted by the same poll to get 10 seats in the upcoming Knesset. Kahlon was the Minister of Communications when cell phone prices were radically slashed and has embraced the subsequent reputation of being a proponent for lowering the cost of living in all market sectors.

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