Israel set for fifth general election in three years after collapse of eight-party coalition

Naftali Bennett’s coalition has lost its majority. Credit: AP

Israel is set to have its fifth general election in three years after the ruling eight-party coalition lost its majority.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office announced on Monday his coalition would disband and new elections would be called for October or November.

The election could also set the stage for a return to power by longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now the opposition leader.

Mr Bennett has struggled to keep his unruly coalition together since it took office one year ago, and defections have left the crumbling alliance without a majority in parliament for over two months.

The election could spell the return of Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: AP

Mr Bennett's main coalition partner, Yair Lapid, will serve as a caretaker prime minister after the government disbands.

Mr Bennett formed the eight-party coalition in June 2021 after four successive inconclusive elections.

It included a diverse array of parties, from factions that support an end to Israel’s occupation of lands captured in 1967, to hardline parties that oppose Palestinian independence.

It made history by becoming the first Israeli coalition government to include an Arab party.

The alliance made a series of accomplishments, including passing the first national budget in several years and navigating a pair of coronavirus outbreaks without imposing any lockdowns.

Israel was afraid the issues would overshadows Joe Biden's visit. Credit: AP

But it has unravelled in recent months, in large part because several members of Mr Bennett’s hard-line party objected to what they felt were compromises made by him to keep the coalition afloat and his perceived moderation.

The dissolution threatened to overshadow a visit scheduled next month by President Joe Biden.

The election could also set the stage for a return to power by longtime prime minister Mr Netanyahu, who is now the opposition leader.

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Israel held four inconclusive elections between 2019 and 2021 that were largely referendums about Mr Netanyahu’s ability to rule while on trial for corruption.

He has always denied wrongdoing.

Opinion polls have forecast that Mr Netanyahu’s hardline Likud will once again emerge as the largest single party.

But it remains unclear whether he would be able to muster the required support of a majority of lawmakers to form a new government or if the political turmoil in Israel will continue.