Bibi Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party coalition has collapsed.

That means new Knesset (parliament) elections in April.

As with most things in Israeli politics, how this came about is a complicated mixture of local politics. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the parties in his coalition decided Monday to disperse the Knesset this week and initiate an early general election in early April….

“With God’s help, we will win,” said Netanyahu, who vowed to form the same coalition after the election.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein summoned the party heads to formalize the process of dispersing the Knesset and initiating the election. The two possible election dates in early April are April 2 and 9.

The announcement came shortly after Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said he would vote against the Defense Ministry’s bill to enlist haredim into the IDF.

Netanyahu would need the support of 61 MKs to pass the controversial haredi enlistment bill that the Supreme Court said must be passed by January 15. Because the bill will not be passed by then, Netanyahu as defense minister would be breaking the law if he does not immediately enlist the haredi en masse, but he still could ignore the law.

The Likud could have still tried to pass the bill with the 61 MKs in the coalition, but the three MKs in the Agudat Yisrael party have said they would not vote for the bill if key changes are not made. Knowing that, coalition chairman David Amsalem instead tried to keep the bill in its current format and seek the support of the opposition Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu parties who voted for it in its first reading.

But Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called a press conference Monday to announce that Yesh Atid would not support the bill, alleging that he had proof the Likud had made “dirty deals” under the table with the haredim and Finance Ministry officials were working on them.

Got all that? The razor thin coalition majority collapsed over the issue of drafting ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) Jews into military service.

It’s dangerous to try to use a U.S. political framework for Israeli politics because of the parliamentary system in which even the ruling party doesn’t get anywhere near a majority of the seats. It’s all about building coalitions, something Netanyahu has done successfully over multiple election cycles. We will try to provide domestic Israeli analysis whenever possible for this reason.

While Israelis vote for a party, not the individual candidate for Prime Minister, the candidates for Prime Minister still matter to the voting public. And that is where Netanyahu has an advantage. Is there any other individual who has the stature and international experience of Netanyahu? Even Israelis who may not like Netanyahu personally may vote for one of the parties who will be part of the coalition for that reason.

Here’s a Netanyahu campaign ad from 2015, portraying his opponents as kindergarten children:

Iran and it’s proxy Hezbollah will be a big issue. Who will Israelis choose, the adult in the room or one of the kindergarten children? That’s likely to be a Netanyahu theme again.

The Times of Israel reports:

Netanyahu, in his short speech to Likud colleagues, praised Israel’s ties with the US, highlighting the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu vowed that Israel would continue to prevent Iran establishing itself in Syria, tackle Hezbollah’s attack tunnels, and deal with Hamas. The IDF is “ready for all scenarios,” he said.

The prime minister did not give a clear-cut answer when asked what had changed in the weeks that passed since the crisis last month when he fought vigorously and successfully to avoid elections following the resignation of defense minister Avigdor Liberman. But Likud MK Yoav Kisch asserted that the key phase of the IDF’s operation to neutralize Hezbollah’s attack tunnels was now over, implying that the security situation had calmed.

Setting out what are likely to be other election issues along with security, Netanyahu hailed the country’s economic growth, and noted that the minimum wage is “higher than ever.”

He also cited the nation-state law, which enshrines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, in the list of accomplishments. “We’ll complete our work,” he vowed.

His Likud, he predicted, will win the elections, and the current coalition will form the “core” of the next coalition.

“With God’s help,” Netanyahu said, he and the Likud party were aiming to keep leading Israel in the direction it has followed these past years.

Iran and Hezbollah aren’t the only threats. The Turkish anti-Semitic Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan constantly is making threats, including to liberate Jerusalem for Muslims, and Netanyahu responds.

And then there’s the other Iranian proxies in Gaza, and the incitement to Jihad and terrorism from the Palestinian Authority and Fatah parties.

All in all, every Israeli election is a security election. I wouldn’t expect this to be any different.

BONUS QUESTION – In 2015 Obama’s proxies intervened to try to prevent a Netanyahu victory. Will Trump intervene to help Netanyahu?

 
 
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